Reginald Dickon Hall was my great uncle, brother to my father’s mother Hilda Hall, her maiden name before she married my grandfather Charles Henry Shores. Reginald was born on the 20th September 1885 and married Hilda Coates Hart (b. 23rd September 1890 d. 29th December 1969) on the 5th June 1912.
Reginald survived the First World War unhurt physically but mentally I suspect he suffered what would be called now posttraumatic stress disorder as can be seen in his writings in the 1918 diary. Sadly Hilda and Reginald divorced and she married a Richard Dawson in 1933.
Reginald was always a Francophile as evidenced by his only daughter Eileen’s middle name was Desiree, she was born while he was in Belgium on the 22nd August 1917. He had a reputation in my grandmother’s side of the family as rather an eccentric lady’s man! According to his niece Dorothy Hall he “abandoned” his wife and daughter to set up life with a French lady in England, but never remarried himself.
His long held smallholding dream was never realised and he returned to work in the GPO as a telegraphist and eventually awarded a long service Empire medal. Upon retirement he lived for a time on a river boat moored near Hull in East Yorkshire, he even went on a canoe camping holiday with some of his contemporaries as an old age pensioner.
He was very fond of me when I was a young boy and I can remember him making me a model garage with forecourt out of wood which he painted for me to play with my toy cars. Like him I’m a Francophile and have lived on a boat for three years although that was on the Thames.
Sadly he died on the 29th December 1969, living his last years in a small downstairs bedroom at his sister Hilda’s house in Anlaby Park, Hull, my paternal grandmother. He left me his three first world war diaries covering 1916-1918 with his tiny, almost indecipherable writing, his thoughts go from inspirational to despair as the war progresses.
He enlisted in the Corps of Royal Engineers 4th East Yorkshire Regiment on the 14th October 1914 as a telegraphist with regimental number 56355.
He was only 5 feet 5 inches tall, weighed 119 lbs, with blue eyes and brown hair. His religious denomination was Church of England but he was also very interested in spiritualism and as can be seen in his writings rather a good poet.
In the 1916 diary he travels around the Western Front visiting Estaires, Hazebroucke, Cassel, Sainte-Marie-Cappel, Herzele, Wormhoudt (where he meets Sir Douglas Haig), Bambeque, Flamertinge, Ypres, Poperinghe, Esquelbecq, Boulogne, Elverdinghe, Courcelles, Couin, Beauval, Mametz Wood, Bernafay Wood, Carnoy, Corbie, Meaulte, Trones Wood, Ville sur Corbie, Treaux, Vignacourt, Belloy sur Somme, Amrens, Belloy, Picquigne, Cavillon, Meaulte.
Monday, January 17th 1916
12.30pm – 5pm. Quiet day. In morning feel unwell so subsist on dates and biscuits. Write to Hilda and to Rider and Sons, latter for books. Hedley smashes lamp after tea. Mitch and I take a walk around and talk about school days and office days.
Tuesday, January 18th 1916
During the night taken diarrhoea very little sleep. Take chloradyne on waking sick, no breakfast. Sick again at work. Slack morning fortunately. Just have Bovril for dinner and then retire to bed and stay there till 8pm. Have supper and go on duty. Very busy. I take first shift let orderly sleep. Read between times. 7.30am-12.30pm. 9pm-8am.
Wednesday, January 19th 1916
Very busy – Gripper comes from Ytres special dispatch.
Thursday, January 20th 1916
Apparently that special dispatch meant something for we are told to pack up and be ready to move 10am Friday. I went this morning to have my photo taken also spoke to a Red Cross man about Mitchell who has the jaundice.
Friday, January 21st 1916
Up at 6.30am. Rush to office where all is bustle, pack up. Carry on office told last minute get kits on and close down office. 10.50am. Set off walking behind DMT. Disconnect a line leaving good old Estaires.
Enjoy the walk but my heel turns sore. Sing as we go along. Mitch loses his hat in the mud and Shally’s nose bleeds, a nice trio. We stop Vieux-Berquin and have chips and a merry time with Mademoiselles then plod on asking our way.
Finally reach DMT and peg down in barn. Got poor tea and roam village for digs which unable to obtain. Paid at 6pm. Go to barn and lie in common bed with cyclist chaps have a jolly sing song till 7pm then sleep till midnight.
Unfortunately I could not go for my photos as we left so suddenly. Five Francs for nothing!
Saturday, January 22nd 1916
Awakened at midnight by Rutherford. Dress at once as car awaits us to take us to YT. Go to the lorries and search for our kits after two hours solid work find them buried deep in the wagons.
Day cold and windy and some rain but not unpleasant. Cassel on high hill with lots of windmills. Like Hessle and about same size.
Fine old chateau, white bricks. Billeted in barn at farm where two German spies were caught dressed as British. Beautiful night, starry, after tea, turn in and write diary. Rumour says we are going to Ypres, French say Nieuport, which are neither correct.
Very tired. I think of Hilda and home. Have had no time to write.
Sunday, January 23rd 1916
Lovely morning. Are warned we cannot get into Cassel, but we try it. Dodge into café and get some English tea. After dodge the MP and get into town. Very clean and old time place.
Old houses and a train which runs to Dunkirk. Some famous shops get pastries etc. A grand view from the town over vast countryside lying below.
After dinner I go into the quiet field and in the brilliant sun and quiet surroundings I write home and Hilda. I feel very much alive in the bracing atmosphere.
The old church chimes in the real ancient country way and gives one the idea of curfew day. Shally and I immediately after tea go for a walk past railway and to La Longue Croix and turn left. Very dark but enjoyable walk. Call at Estaminet returning.
Monday, January 24th 1916
Shally and I on rations work hard till 10am. Free till post time we carry very heavy mails. I get some good letters from Hilda, then DMT in afternoon.
Tea over, Shally I and Charlie set off in another direction and get back very tired, it was a beautiful evening, Jupiter and Venus visible in a perfect sky. Call at chateau and have drinks then return. I read a while I love this old world place and the beautiful surroundings. Many aspects remind me of scenes at home.
Hilda writes me about some discussion she had at home re psychology and she says ‘I as a pupil of yours nearly converted an antagonist’ which pleased me immensely.
Tuesday, January 25th 1916
Told after parade to proceed to 59 Brigade along with Charles and Remington. Cordie and Kelly to go 60 Brigade. I pack and call for others. What bundles we have to carry.
Kelly makes us laugh at his awkwardness and many halts and readjustments. Pretty walk but tiring.
Arrive 59 Brigade.
See old Syd and chat with him. He seems very sick of it and unwell wants to go to England. He retells rumours of Ypres and East Africa. Any truth?
After tea I explore the hill at back of house and go along some paths to the old windmill. I try to ascend steps but dog growls at me so I discreetly descend and return. It was a grand view from hill top across the plains in the evening purple twilight. Return and write diary in Estaminet.
Wednesday, January 26th 1916
Had a very nice sleep on the straw in the evening. Rose and shaved and went on at 7.30am. Read ‘A Tall Ship’ and enjoyed it.
Corporal Davis asked me to walk with him to Hazebroucke in the afternoon we swung along the low roads in fine style chatting about origins of races and other matters.
I notice the old Flemish windmills. We landed in Hazebroucke about a quarter to four and wandered round the square. Had a ripping English tea which I enjoyed mightily a wee French damsel coaxed a penny out of me, a winsome little lass she was.
Set off back in a quick walk under a lovely starry sky. Called at Estaminet where Madame declaimed about some French priests and her confession and the money she would not pay to the Church.
On duty at 9pm we light the fire in office and settle ourselves. From telegram seems likely we will stay here for six days – hope so.
Thursday, January 27th 1916
I sit by the fire and read, occasionally mending the fire in the old wide fireplace. The book is ‘Ghosts’ by Bolton. Pretty much the same as Wallace’s and Crookes report, very unfailingly wonderful, whatever the explanation may be.
Strange also that such significant phenomena exists and is only appreciated by few. What will my own final verdict be?
Wake Davis up at 3.45am and myself lie in the chimney corner, but only for one hour and a half waking up cold and tired. After breakfast I lay down in the Estaminet and snatch some sleep till dinner. Read by stove in afternoon ‘The Human Body’ by Philpot.
Tea and duty 5pm. Off at 9pm I get supper and wait tediously in the rabble and distaste of the Estaminet. Card playing until nearly 11pm. Very selfish some of the men keeping up the old dame and swigging rum and beer.
Friday, January 28th 1916
Parcel received from Hilda. I finish my letter to her and enclose in one of Syd’s.
About 11am have an ante dinner jaunt with Corporal Davis to café in Sainte-Marie-Cappel. Chat with the dark haired damsel and return to the office where I sit and work and write chatting occasionally with Davis.
I can see the valley below stretching away to the distant plain. The white trail of engine smoke threads the trees in the middle distance reminding me of a similar scene which I saw from the Cleveland hills, the vale of York traversed by trains from Thirsk to North Allerton. The occasion was my walking tour with old Halley.
Ah! Those glorious days of happy reminiscence. I long now for the lonely high moor. The freedom and independence of those days.
I get a pass into Cassel and walk by the broad ascending high road into that place. Call at café and get a good tea of beef chips etc. There meet Davis and Miles. Miles makes us laugh with his absurdities. Call at the sweet meat café and have some French pastry.
In bed Rimmington and I have a long confidential chat on literature and ourselves. I enjoyed this chat more than anything for a long time.
Saturday, January 29th 1916
A busy day in the office. I receive another letter from Hilda. Poor little girl she thinks I have forgotten her. I write to Ed Carrick and Frodsham.
In the evening I sit in the café and chat with the Belgian refugees, on resemblances between English and Flemish and other things.
9pm resume duty. Make the fire, write further letters. Davis sleeps and I sit musing and thinking over the fire. I ponder over the old problems, but feel too sleepy and stupid to be very clear.
We get a Zepp message saying Zepp coming Abbeville direction. Hear nothing further.
Prior to sitting John made cocoa and made me cake. John is very generous. I got down at twenty to four am.
Sunday, January 30th 1916
Get up at 7.30am feel a bit seedy. Very misty morning. Set off at 9.30am for Cassel, chatting interesting matter with John Davis.
Walk round marketplace, John looking very much at the girls and making advances to them without much success, although one inclined her head.
Call in at a fine café with stained glass windows. Have tea and a little sing song with little French waitress who plays wonderfully well. Return to billet and after dinner get the much desired pay.
I forgot to mention about the sing song of hymns and other items at breakfast. It was great. Chat during duty with John Davis on subject of Jews.
On at 5pm to 9pm. Very great noise in Estaminet with gambling parties. I protest but it was 12pm before they dispersed.
Monday, January 31st 1916
A beautiful sharp morning JD and I walk across the fields to Sainte-Marie-Cappel pass the Division as they march to the inspection by two army commanders. Call at the Estaminet where Claire and Marie are sat chatting and having much fun with a very buxom dark eyed girl. Walk back and on at 12.30pm.
Letter from Hilda. I send cards. After tea Miles, John Davies and I walk to Cassel and explore for shops selling spirits of salts. Then purchase big views to send to England.
Meet H. Thompson and go to café and get bon tea. Ripping French cakes and ham. Walk home at 8pm and have a great sing song in Estaminet.
Burton sick and expressed a desire to die on the limber wagon. After midnight before sleep. Evidently we soon move on to Ypres Salient.
Tuesday, February 1st 1916
I wake up late going on at 8am. Very cold morning. A very cold fine day Davis and I go behind Estaminet amongst the hills and fields and to where the big windmill is. Go over the very ancient fabric with its wonderful collection of wheels and cogs. The boy tries to get it going but it is broken and although we use much energy pushing the sails it avails nothing.
Saunter across to a cottage and see there a refugee family from Belgium. Chat in French and have an enjoyable quiet afternoon. John tries to make an appointment and does not go with Miles and self who go to Cassel after tea.
Meet some of the boys in the White Café and get another grand tea of French cakes and ham. Music and chatting. Meet Davis and Fortune. Davis had no luck. We return on at 9pm and make fire.
Report in today’s paper on raid of Zepp over Paris, over 50 killed, apparently this is the one which was returning via Rouen and Abbeville.
Wednesday, February 2nd 1916
Keep a very good fire going and make toast and coffee. Nothing much doing during.
I write to home and Hilda which lasts till 3.45am. I return to Estaminet but sleep indifferently.
9am walk into Cassel with Davis, visit the local Cemetery and examine the inscriptions and the rather ugly monuments.
Visit Les Moulins which are in full swing. I have tea in café and return. I lay to sleep in afternoon but though I had a good lie down was not successful. Succeeded in catching a cold from somewhere. Very cold and fine weather.
In the evening two Zepps reported going over. Recently has been very intense attacks on the whole western front, only partially successful at a French point. Another uneasy night’s sleep.
Old Charlie acting the clown amuses everyone including the refugees. (During the night I dreamt of Marion and Hilda strangely mixed).
Thursday, February 3rd 1916
Unable to go for usual walk as were told to stand by. Have a kick at the football in a strong wind and brilliant sun. After hearing that we were not required Davis and I walked to Cassel though I was rather tired.
12.30pm-5pm in the office. After tea Fortunati, Davis and self walk to Cassel and meet boys in the café. Have a good tea of tinned cherries, cakes and tea and listen to Park singing and Mademoiselles playing. Walk home in the dark and under the stars singing songs and discussing.
The fellows clear out early and so we get down early for once in a while, but owing to my cold I slept none too well. Today heard of the Zepps attacks on the Midland Counties. Wonder if they were near Tipton. Hope not as Hilda is there. When are we going to tackle this menace successfully? Before I retired I watch a burning farmstead from the hill.
Friday, February 4th 1916
Up at 6.30am and pack, a hurried breakfast and away. However, we have a long wait in the wind and rain for the Lieutenant who is late. Later after a mile or two march, another mishap in the shape of a wagon in the ditch and a runaway horse detains us for quarter of an hour.
A steady tramp of 2 hours brings us to Herzele a small sleepy village, where us settle in the signal office. Difficulty in getting sleeping room. Explore round village. Get some tea and visit Estaminet with Rimmington where we hear a comic Lancs lad sing and patter.
Returning we talk to the Belgian refugees of our billet. Mother takes us (Rimmington + I) to her house where we arrange to sleep on the floor.
On at 9pm with Lillicrap and Davis. When all is quiet I write diary and sit and think about Hilda and home and of the dream I had concerning Hilda and Marion, which takes me back to the days, the very youthful days of my courting of Marion. What a strange thing is memory and reflection! How sad and how sweet.
Saturday, February 5th 1916
Very poor sleep on cold floor. Relieved at 7.30am and go to billet where I wash, clean shave and have chat with the Flemish people and two Mademoiselles, one of whom calls me “Domerique”.
After dinner walk to Wormhoudt by road. The place is a fine one, big square and houses neat and the usual bandstand. Have a snack and return. Saw Sir Douglas Haig in the square.
Received papers and letter from 83 and card from Anna. At 9pm go to billet and see there several of the Belgians and chat about Zepps and things till 10.30pm. I make a very good bed and sleep well by the stove. Received the cigs by the post from Martins. Give most of them away.
Sunday, February 6th 1916
Receive letter from Hilda. She says Tipton was bombarded by the Zepps and 36 bombs dropped, one of which fell near the house. It makes one think that we are safer even here than at home.
In the evening I sat with Rachel Andere and her young brother in the house, trying to talk French. I shared a bit of my chocolate with them. Go out and buy Quakers Oats and return to cook them. They turned out a treat and being very hungry I appreciated them.
Monday, February 7th 1916
7.30am-12.30pm. Slack morning. Walk to Wormhoudt with Davis against a strong wind, a really glorious day. Very tiring and glad when arrive at Wormhoudt.
Walk to the café and have a good lunch. The Madame has not got my socks someone having taken them. Meet Shally and Bill Graham in the square. They tell me DIV HQ at old Feudal castle at Esquelbecq.
We return to Herzele in the late of the calm afternoon, the sky purple with the breeze died down and a golden glory suffusing the atmosphere. One of the old Flemish mills whirls merrily as we go by. After tea Rimmington goes out and I stay in and chat, make porridge and go on at 9pm. My first turn down but dreadfully cold and uncomfy.
Tuesday, February 8th 1916
I wake up at 3.30am and sit in the room very cold and sleepy. Towards morning doze. After 7.30 walk to billet in fine early morning have some lovely porridge and bloater. Then get down and sleep till 12pm.
Don’t trouble about dinner but sit, talk with Rimmington, Rachel and two other old dames. Though truth to tell I took a minor part in the French conversation.
Take on again at 5 and receive papers and a letter from Hilda. Read papers in evening. Hear Rumania is in strained relations with Austria and Germany and America too is restive but I think Rumania will come in but not America.
Charles goes in for leave. Seems as if the married men were going at last. Hope so.
Probably we shall move to Poperinghe or Elverdinge on the way to the trenches. I wish they would keep me at the Brigade.
Friday, February 11th 1916
Bid a regretful farewell to Rachel and the others. They gave me their address and a invitation.
Tramp all day in a heavy rain and wind and soon wet through. Arrive Pop 5.20pm wet and cold. After unpacking go out to tea in town. Return and work till 9pm then sleep or rather try to but not much of a success.
Shell holes through roof. Very tired.
Saturday, February 12th 1916
Up at 6am pack kit and set off again over wet slush and uneven road. As we journey see shell holes all along both sides of road. Also hear the shelling as we go towards it. Walk to Vlamertinge which is also wrecked and in a deplorable state. Out of Vlamertinge see the cloth hall ruins.
Skirt the environs of Ypres and suicide corner which they were shelling perilously as we walked. We were warned by MP, shelling taking place all the way up. Cart gets stuck in mud. We get into a decent dugout 4 of us. Shally, Miles Self and David. I take up relief in office which is in state of chaos. Shells falling around all day. Hear Pop was bombed after we left and people panic stricken. Sit in dugout and sing with 43 boys.
Busy night. The Germans supposed 15 attack 60, hear they had 250 casualties. Andy Veutch and another lost between our lines lie in the wet for hours and return exhausted. They were shelled by both German and British.
Sunday, February 13th 1916
Make a roaring fire. Have to stay till 9am. Sleep until 12.30. Wake up refreshed. Relieve Shally dinner.
Office again at 2pm. About 3pm Germans shell Canal Bank heavily. Shells breaking over one dugout with great force not over comfortable. Sgt Weiner staggers in saying “I’m hit.” Shrapnel caught his arm and sent a piece right through making a nasty hole. A Blighty one for him, our artillery retaliated later.
Many planes up and much shelling. This is a hot hole indeed. Got a good letter from Hilda. Wish I were back, but still though not brave I must stick it.
Monday, February 14th 1916
Things much the same. Sleep for a couple of hours in the morning. No time to shave. Wash about once in two days.
Attend a talk by the Officer in his dugout. Spend evening in hanging up a screen in the bedroom! Very cold all night on duty.
Tuesday, February 15th 1916
Much talk and argument amongst us on kindred subjects to Tariff reform with Lillicrap. A very heavy and continuous shelling in Hooge direction. Later we learn that the Germans take our trenches and we are unable to retake.
I go to the dugout and sleep sounds and return to work at 2pm. Very cold in the office. During the evening a heavy firing takes place seemingly an endeavour to take back the lost trenches. Off at 9pm when I have a cup of cocoa.
I lay listening to the thunder of the guns. Shells dropping behind our dugout. Tremendously windy and raining.
Wednesday, February 16th 1916
7-30-1.40pm. We beautify the dugout in afternoon. Heavy shelling proceeding all day and night. Think we must be trying to take lost trenches.
Hear poor little Hugo was sniped and killed on his return from battle with bullet through head and painless. 2 casualties in a few days. I am impressed by the hardening and callusing effect of war. One man more or less seems not to matter and burial seems a secondary consideration. Am told that only a few hundred yards is a dead soldier in an old dugout.
Thursday, February 17th 1916
Midnight to 8am very slow and sleepy. Have a good sleep till 3pm. On at 5pm. Very busy till 9pm on battalion. After 9pm sit in the dugout till 11pm making cocoa and teas with pickles.
Good night rest. Going on at 5pm had to make a rush for it as shells were dropping dangerously near. A case of retaliation I think. Very busy night on battalion line. Got a good night’s sleep. Letter from Hilda first for 7 days. 2 Zepps came over during night.
Friday, February 18th 1916
During the morning I clean up then write letter Willie and Hilda. Hear the Russians have taken 100,000 prisoners and 460 guns at Erzerum in Mesopotamia. Very great news if true.
Off at 5pm. Great guns pretty busy, their tremendous flashes showing up like vivid lightning. Sit and sing in dugout in evening and later partake of Miles parcel.
Saturday, February 19th 1916
7.20-12.30 letter from Hilda. Very tired not very well so have a sleep in afternoon and fell better for it.
I was much depressed to hear that one of the dear boys who was in my company class at Sailly was killed in taking over the trenches. They actually went straight into the fight after heavy march with all kit on. His name was Mead, age about 19; I remember he gave me a cigar at the end of the class. He was the one interested in astronomy and in the boy scouts.
The Germans infiltrated the dugouts and killed many of the 60th, the same line of dugouts as ours.
Sunday, February 20th 1916
Much business re new sounder line. Have a pleasant night as we make tea and a fire and chat.
After daylight I went into the field, white over with frost, a hazy cold and tinted morning promising a fine and perhaps beautiful day. I thought as I passed the three graves how fond of putting any little religious symbol on them are our Tommies.
Had a very little sleep till after dinner. On at 5pm. Very cold evening.
Hear the Germans attacked the French at Het Sas and another place, crossing and being driven back in one and not across in another. Driven back with great loss. Yesterday Germans got one of our Saps and 30 men of 60th whom they marched across with hands up.
Weather very cold and sharp. Get letter from Hilda. She wants me to invest some of my money in Uncle’s concern and to go there for my holiday part of the time.
Monday, February 21st 1916
Write home to Hilda and mother in morning after cleaning up the dugout.
A fairly quiet day on the front. We all have a good supper in the evening.
Tuesday, February 22nd 1916
7.30 am-12.30, not too cold though it snowed in the morning. But after dinner was so cold that I decided to get to bed for warmth. I did so and only got up for tea.
From 3pm a violent bombardment by our guns took place, the Germans replying only briefly. After tea I got down again for warmth and remained till supper and time for duty. Off at 9pm.
The clerk told me that he had to call every 5 mins during night. At 1.10am the battalion at B14 reported 2 Zepps passing over. I heard the buzzing and later heard they had bombed Pop.
I get a card of wren’s nest from H. Have a decent conversation with Thompson on cycling and walking tours in the north.
Wednesday, February 23rd 1916
A bitterly cold night even with the bit of fire. Make cocoa at 3.30am comes a report from 5 corps that they took a German prisoner who states the Germans are going to attack on the Ypres Salient this morning. (Didn’t mature).
Very little sleep in morning. Davis says he found a new large French dugout. We transfer our things there with a rush, but have to shift twice before the staff captain settles in a fine new French dugout.
Sleep separate. Enemy shell us heavily some of which just over dugout and fragments all around. In the evening very cold, glad when 9pm comes, everyone starved though. I rubbed myself with anti frostbit grease which made my feet warm. Snow.
Thursday, February 24th 1916
Inspection in morning of helmets and rifles and pay, also at 11.15am. On parade Collins was present as prisoner for drunkenness and was given 1 month and fined one pound.
Probably will be another strafing German trenches shortly, their aeroplanes very busy overhead. They look very fine in the strong sunlight. Hear the R B signals smashed by shellfire but afterwards appears not the office hit, but close by.
5-9pm very cold on duty. Rubbed myself with anti frostbit all over and paid the penalty, no sleep for me till after 3am. My body burned and prickles.
Got 2 postcards from Hilda. Heard a rumour of 150,000 Germans captured by French. I doubt it.
Friday, February 25th 1916
7.30-12.30 working sounder and passed rather quickly. Letter from mother. Lizzie has got a little daughter.
Rough weather in England and here very intense cold. Cannot keep warm. Try to sleep but not possible for cold. In the evening make up stove. Snowing hard.
Saturday, February 26th 1916
Have an enjoyable night which passed rather quickly owing to our preparing tea and later I had a most interesting conversation with McNeil on spiritualism and purgatory. He being a Catholic, I find much of agreement possible to him.
No sleep in the day. I try to fire up the stove but not a success. Very sleepy in evening and have a grand sleep overnight.
Sunday, February 27th 1916
Very busy till 11am cleaning up. Lie down till noon. Rather busy 12.30-5pm, wires working unsatisfactory.
Write letter home in evening, giving a description of our life and dugout. Make cocoa and supper for the boys. When in bed the Germans shelled just short and over the dugout. A fellow took refuge in our hut whilst it was on.
Monday, February 28th 1916
7.30-12.30, quiet morning, afternoon clean up and lie down and stay there till 8pm as Rimmington was there playing. I was vexed that he wanted me to show him across the field with a searchlight.
Shortly after light the Germans shelled in rapid succession the roads; it would be a wonder if there were no casualties. There were two near our dugout the other day from shrapnel.
As I lay in bed I thought, would it not be possible to so shut out the outside world and to so intensify memory and recollection as to make it the reality and manipulate existence to our own desires?
On at 9pm. Rimmington said a dugout today had been smashed in, and a loss of 51 lives just on 61st left.
Tuesday, February 29th 1916
A gas alarm went during the night, but it was a false one. Slept a bit in the morning and had a quiet day generally, though they dropped about 50 one after another in front of our dugout. Many holes in the ground after.
Just heard that down in the hollow near High Command was where the Canadians were gassed so we are on the historic spot. St Jean is near where Wellington stopped before Waterloo.
After 9pm the Germans dropped about 15 one after another on the roads. Hellish it sounded too.
“St. David’s Day” Wednesday, March 1st 1916
Hear the Germans making strenuous efforts near Verdun and they have captured a fort. Things certainly look like having started on this front. God grant it may soon be over and that we may be in our own homes in safety and comfort.
Very busy cleaning up in morning, on in afternoon and in evening again, busy making supper etc. We have a last sing song in bed as it is our last night on canal bank. Well it had been a rough time enough.
Very many planes were up in the evening at twilight. I noticed some birds singing as if spring were here. Thoughts of spring and poetry. Go to top of bank to view 2 white rockets burst and see shrapnel bursting over the enemy trenches.
Thursday, March 2nd 1916
Wakened at 5am by most intense shelling and bombardment by our guns and whole front. Sounds like the never ending rumbling of drums.
On duty hear we took 3 lines of trenches, hundreds of prisoners and attained all our objective. Germans replied and I notice shell holes behind. Later Germans counter attacked and position serious as our reserves could not get up.
We move today and I don’t fancy the walk to Poperinghe as I fear we may be shelled. I am not too brave thought I try to steel myself. I think of the loved ones at home. I realise the certainty of it all, but then why cannot I, a Britisher, be proud and bold.
It is different psychologically to resist the influence of the whistling screeching shell, the vivid flash. Then what cannot images do for a man. I have a vivid me too. Still I think of the proud Roman and what he endured and my own national heritage.
Yes, I could be brave but for the intensity of my own feelings for the homefolk and perhaps the jealousy that I might be forgotten. God! What a creature I am. Had a fine letter from Mother tonight. Tender and thoughtful as ever.
Friday, March 3rd 1916
Surely the best Mother on earth.
I believe in the future life but if I could only realise it. I think a good bit of Marcus Aurelius and try to be a stone.
At 1am we left and blundered about on the mud and darkness lit up by the fitful lights from the trenches as we fringed along the shell putted roads I wondered if we should be lucky to miss enemy attentions. Skirted Ypres and Flamertinge which were being sprinkle with shrapnel and took emergency roads. Shally beaten out and tired. We carried his things, later got a life in a motor Lorry and arrived 3.30am. I slept till 8am then took up duty.
At 1am Poperinghe shelled in rapid succession by armoured train, shells going over us and bursting 500 or more yards away. One in Durham’s billet, one in street. Total of 50 casualties, about 9 killed. Three Red Cross took them away. I saw some cases but Beeton and the others were actually on the spot and were providentially missed.
Have a short rest in afternoon. Visited pictures in evening. Not bad. Go on duty at 9pm Beeton my colleague. Letter from Hilda.
Saturday, March 4th 1916
We had roaring fire going and it was needed for it was a horrible night, dark rainy and windy. I write diary up and intend writing to Hilda later. I hear we are going to Dickebosch, said to be a worse place than this. No sleep during day.
Went to the Division with Shally in afternoon. On at 5pm. At 8.10pm the German armoured train started shelling us again, they dropped 8 all near the station wounding 3. I didn’t like it at all. As I sat I wondered if any were coming out way. Small chance for us if they had.
Saturday, March 5th 1916
1.30am Germans again shelled us but no damage done. A beautiful day so Davis and I stroll round town and have a good dinner at a café. Busy afternoon, I try to write without much success.
Miles and I go to Town Hall in evening to C of E service which though brief was very enjoyable. Some other of the chaps were there Coleman, Hollands and Bob. I think from his remarks the Chaplain must have been acquainted with pragmatism.
In bed I have an interesting chat and argument with the boys on the rights of war and shelling tonight. Perhaps time that the German gun was knocked out. Things generally hopeful.
Monday, March 6th 1916
7.30am Duty. Told that we are to Divion tomorrow for which I am not thankful. Suspect we will get plenty of fatigues there.
I have a lay down with Roger Hordem in afternoon then get tea and go out with Shally, Cordie Brammer to the to the fancies crowded house and very enjoyable.
Return for duty. Make cocoa on duty and have a grand coal fire. Very snowy and cold.
Tuesday, March 7th 1916
Try a short lay down but not successful. Pack up things after a walk round Poperinghe. Roger and I set off for Div heavily laden. Get a lift later on and arrive Div. Find them in a wooden town of huts and apparently comfy.
5-9pm not at all a bad office but many chaps sick of the inoculation and much work. I get on good bed but very cold during night. Situation normal. Verdun fight still continuing. No further prospect of leave.
Wednesday, March 8th 1916
Up at 8am on rations. Much snow but clear day and most beautiful under mantle of whiteness. Walk briskly and work hard lighting.
The wagon goes to Pop and I with it to the ordinance to collect stuff. Bring Roger back, am later on duty 1pm-5pm. Spend very miserable evening as all others playing cards and no room to move. Bentley comes in the hut and tells us we have to move. That is Shally and I. Very poor and little sleep owing to card playing and cold.
Thursday, March 9th 1916
Up at 6.30am. Shave and go on at 8am very cold and snowy. Relieved at 1pm and told to take infantry Sgts in Morse. Very miserable. After tea have to go on lamps till 9pm. Then on duty.
Told I am for inoculation in morning. Late on at 9pm I have a turn down at 12pm but sleep little. Verdun battle still raging and Germans taken a point on the Meuse.
Friday, March 10th 1916
After breakfast proceed to have inoculation. Return and lie down later in the day. Become very heavy and stiff later.
Saturday, March 11th 1916
Passed a very restless and dreamful night, but wake up slightly better and improve as day advances. Get letter from Hilda and papers re raid which has been a very distressful one. Poor Old Cliow School suffered. Very sorry as it is one of the most ancient of Hull relics.
Sunday, March 12th 1916
Another quiet day in, beginning to be alright again. I resume duty at 7.30am as check. On duty at 5pm till 9 write 2 letters. Shally done today at 9.30am Bill Gorman in our hut, gives an amusing exhibition.
Monday, March 13th 1916
How can I get near to God? The only way is by the intensification of realisation. By the knowledge that He listens. He hears, He reacts on my messages to Him. Does it matter that others are speaking to Him at the same time? No! I am capable of so many reactions at one and the same moment.
It increases my sense of His greatness when I realise his instantaneous perception of his myriad creatures and their actions and prayers. Always Thou art there oh God! If I blind myself I do not kill the light, if I open the window I but let in the light already there. Yea though I walk through the shadows of Death Thou art with me I fear no evil (or should not).
Tuesday, March 14th 1916
Worry is acted atheism “How much better is we could always trust God.” If I have a dear friend, I should not know I could rely on him absolutely that he would not betray my trust. Therefore if I do at all believe in God I must trust Him, however difficult it may be from ingrained habit.
But say some experience does not prove that such trust is well placed or that there are reasonable grounds for it. Yet I am reminded of the lives of the Great Saints, of many ordinary everyday folk, of all the classic examples such as St Paul.
I believe that had experience of the value of faith and trust in God, they proved the thesis that faith works therefore faith is true. If I converse in the inner courts of myself with God I shall increase the realisation of its value. I shall never be alone.
With Epictetus I can say “When you have close your doors and made darkness within remember never to say your alone. For you are not alone. God too is present there and your guardian spirit and what need have they of light to see what you are doing?
There is no solitude to Him whose companion is God.” No nor whilst one can appreciate the beauties of nature of communion with it. To me adoration and admiration of nature merged into and cannot be distinguishes from love and admiration of God.
Naturally in communing with nature language slips into homage and humility, of inability to respond to all that nature would lavish, would teach. It raises in me the query whether, if someday here or there I shall be enabled to rise sufficiently in power to return due deed of love and admiration to that Great Artist who draws in the screen of the Universe.
Friday, March 17th 1916
7.30am-noon. For a change they give me a rest in the afternoon. I have a little snooze. Things have grown very monotonous here lately. After tea I go for a short walk with Shally in the dusk prior to supper and going on duty.
Saturday, March 18th
Writing wireless and get down to a restless couple of hours, my arm and shoulder ached for some reason or other. Doing nothing for rest of day till 5pm when on duty.
Venning lent me a book Sire Mortimer about the Spanish main. A very fine book stimulating to the imagination.
Leave has restarted, but it does not move me to think I shall get a very early turn.
Sunday, March 19th
On water cart at 9am. Waiting in the sunshine for our turn, it will be a long wait. A very beautiful morning, fit to evoke the poetic if only this wretched war did crush all such tendencies.
A new rule has come out, no reading or writing on day duty.
What a most glorious sunny morning. Spring seems to saturate the very air and the twittering birds bring memories of past seasons like the present. The sky is pale blue and white and a pleasant breeze makes the day cool and fresh.
The guns are booming from Ypres. Early this morning a Taube was overhead for a considerable time and dropped a bomb near HQ, it fell in a field near us but did not explode.
Monday, March 20th
Hear Debney wounded at canal bank. Shally departs with Syd Crawley to Infantry Instruction class. Left on my own.
After tea went for a walk down side lane to Ypres Rd. See a French soldier walking slowly and feebly along carrying his kit. On my return I stop and speak to him. He was returning from leave and was very broken in spirit. He told me of his wife and children. I walked with him a long way towards Elverdinge talking and sympathising. When I said goodbye, he gripped hands hard saying “Merci Comrade.”
It was a heartfelt and sympathetic grip and I could hear the catch in his voice as he hobbled off on his wounded leg, ah me, we both felt the anguish of war and its separations and I felt him feeling sad and overborne for who know of the uncertainties of life at such a time. I shall always wonder of him and his fate.
Tuesday, March 21st
Have a little row with Les, not much rest in morning. On at 5pm. I hear 2 men were killed outside our dugout at 59th canal bank. Very wet rainy day. Letter from Hilda. Mr. and Mrs. Hird have been to Hill. A very bad night’s sleep. Bill Gorman drunk and acting disorderly until 1am.
Wednesday, March 22nd
Up at 7.30 and go with Durham man to the dump. Very much off colour and unable to life the heavy stuff on rations. They were very heavy too and it rained and was generally nasty. Saw the observation balloon going up. Walked back to camp and helped unload.
Had a bad headache in evening due to lack of sleep. Nervous exhaustion. Fortunately the boys promised quiet and also took the precaution of pinching the playing cards. Bill Gorman came in drunk as usual; he had been fined 14 days pay for cheeking an NCO. We put him to sleep alright and I myself got a decent sleep which I thoroughly enjoyed and felt much better for. Parcel and letter from Hilda.
Thursday, March 23rd
On at 7.30am. Quiet morning in office. Day much finer. I wrote a letter to Hilda, full of hints so she might possibly read between the lines re leave. Am on post in afternoon, which did not turn up till 4pm. I changed over into Sgt Bullocks hut as corps man left a bed there. Promises more comfort than other hut.
On at 9pm I take a tin of ideal milk which makes a grand drink. Heard today of the North Sea incident in which our destroyers chased the Germans to port. Generally things are optimistic. I hope they will turn out so too and quietly. Also that leave might come quickly. Poor Hilda anxious.
Friday, March 24th
Midnight-3am, at 3.30am I go to hut and sleep nicely on new bed till nearly noon. 5pm a nice evening which prompts me to poetic efforts and state of mind. It has a tranquilising effect on me although the results are practically nil. Cator talks with me about his wife and I about mine.
Saturday, March 25th
On post at 8am. A far amount to do. I do it all myself, McKnight staying in bed. Nothing of importance today. A fine afternoon with a beautiful sky which inspires me to poetic effort.
Sunday, March 26th
7.30-12.30. Nothing doing on duty. Fine morning. I spend the time musing and trying to make up a bit of poetry on the beauties of nature. On post in afternoon.
About 2am this morning was awakened by fire alarm. Fire was in a barn occupied by M. Police and burned fiercely. Ammunition exploded and crackled.
I turned in again as on at 7.30am. Quiet evening till 9pm then on duty. My first turn down at 11pm.
Monday, March 27th
Up at 3am after cold lie down and no sleep. Much more comfy in first room where I sit afterwards and chat with Smitham on spiritualism etc. He is a jolly fellow.
Later 2FA report capture of German prisoners tapping into our lines. Hear he had the Iron Cross.
Later I get letter from Hilda and Mother. Thompson going to amb sick. Just had a letter and a paper from home. Paper contains account of Sheffield’s leading agnostics conversion. After 30 years in the agnostic fold, he says the spirit of God never left him.
How intense must be that spirit, how persistent such a home call to survive 30yrs of agnostic training and reading and preaching. What lead him to renounce unbelief. The greater difficulties of unbelief encounters in answering whence and whither, the loss of dignity, the loss of value, the tendency of lowering of life’s standard agnosticisms. He noticed the consistency of many Christian lives and the general nobility of Christian ideals. It seems to me that one proves a belief and its necessity but slowly.
Experience is a slow teacher. I do not agree with F.C.S. Schiller when he says life’s lessons are soon learnt, only by painful repetition do we accept many lessons and it is mostly a tuition extending over many years. This I know by my own experience.
Monday, March 28th
Do some washing in morning as I am not on any fatigues. Washing not a success. Think I shall have to throw it away.
12.30-5 I spend a few of my spare moments in reflection on the afternoon. Have a short walk in the evening towards Elverdinge but is so threatening I return and chop firewood in the hut.
Many of the men come in having had too much drink and others playing crown and anchor. It seems a curious commentary on our boasted evolution of types. R.C.M. Smith blasphemes in his usual drunken way, but even sung as they are by him, these hymns retain their associations and drawing power.
I sit in bed and enter my poems, if such I can call these efforts of silly expression.
Wednesday, March 29th
Say what one will, there is a lamentable blackness and irreligion abroad. I am conscious of my own shortcomings in this respect, whilst quite conscious of the desirability and the attractiveness of the Christian virtues. Christianity as an ideal.
I have an intense love of life, love of home, wife and parents, I hate the thought of possible death in the forms it wears out here, but the predominant feature is that I love ardently my wife, my home and these I wish to return to.
The thought that I might never see my wife again, never enjoy on earth her love and care is anguish to me. I am jealous too that any other should ever take that from me. Some would say it is wrong and selfish to wish one’s wife to remain a widow. Yet I think if we hold the highest view of marriage and if it is a true marriage, no other logical view is possible.
Face the future I must whatever comes, so here I write that my wife may know, I love her, always love her, I love life and all these dreams of our common future I cherish. If ever I should go here, I would that she should at time remember the one who first loved her. I would not write so except that to any of us here life is an uncertain thing and I would not have my thoughts entirely a closed book. – I am up till 3.30am.
Had a walk towards Elverdinge after tea. Met a Frenchman and bought a cartridge souvenir from him. A lovely evening stopped from going right to E by sentries. Wrote to Hilda.
Thursday, March 30th
Cleaning out the hut during the morning. Sleep for an hour in afternoon. Hear leave is to be increased, is it coming any nearer?
Does my faith in the next life affect my fear of death, or does my faith in goodness and virtue affect my conduct alas! Only too feebly I think.
I have desired to read Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, or the Iliad. I have seen some splendid bits in the little paper the Healer lent me by Smitham, a quotation by Harold Begbie “We are at all times and all places surrounded by spirits”.
The nature and extent of their power and the method of its exercise, we do not know. But it is certain that from the beginning of history down to the present day, usually as unique moments of their lives men have had glimpses of these spiritual companions. That is so, they are not always beneficent ones either as spiritualism proves.
If our optical range were not so limited, probably we should see these organisms surrounding us. The admittance of this thesis is fundamental in importance as it serves as a bedrock from which perhaps more than one philosophy can be built but all more or less friendly to mans personality.”
Friday, March 31st
I am on cooks mate in the morning, a most glorious day, full of sunshine and warmth. I sat on a box peeling potatoes and talking to Bennett of leave, of his girl and home matters generally.
In the evening I just wandered around the fields, enjoying the sunset and evening shadows and the white radiance of Venus high in the west. Low down the horizon, the clouds were deep purple and against them, traced in intricate beauty were the trees, their laced branches, merged into the purple as the orange of the suns last rays and higher yet was the blue creeping from the fainter to the deepest shade where hung the lamps of the night, the everlasting stars.
Deep was my admiration sincere my worship, poor was my feeling and ability to appreciate. I went away happy to receive, to have the receptive gift. Yet sad at my poor estate in the poetic arts, in my power to tell my state of soul. Still I know that one grows in this matter as in all others. Later on I sat in bed, I read some of the excellent words in the book Smitham lent me.
“The Healer” and I reflected upon them. Some of the reflection I have set down here. I certainly think I have learnt something, moreover I cannot believe it to be choice which sends these things along my path.
Today Thompson goes on leave vice Cator who is much upset. When will my turn come?
7.30am-12.30pm and 9pm-7.30am. Parade at 12.30pm medical inspection, iron ration inspection. Had a little sleep in afternoon, not much. Disinfected my blankets and afterwards had a short walk returning and going on duty after supper.
I get my turn down last, writing my letters home meantime. Wrote a special long one to Hilda, I wonder what she will think of it. A very violent bombardment on both sides all night some shells falling on road outside near the windmill where we draw water.
Had a very good sleep from 3.30am and awoke to find a brilliant morning. We had much fun with Hamlett who was laid outside covered by his blanket. Someone put up a wooden cross with RIP on it. Several of the boys standing about mockly serious. A French man passing actually saluted the supposed body!
Sunday, April 2nd 1916
Year ago today, we were at Winchester, Good Friday, we actually got a hot cross bun. Cleared hut out, then went out on the grass, but too swelteringly hot so that I went in again.
5-9pm I finished my letter to Hilda and sent her £5, my balance. In orders many punishments and orders that no gambling allowed in any form again. Very hot day but very beautiful.
Tuesday, April 4th 1916
In the evening of today I went for a walk across the fields and among the hop poles. It was a beautiful night with Venus high up. I leaned against a telegraph pole and reflected on nature, on home, and other sacred things as the faint sound from the Inns floated to my ears.
Several large shell holes in the ground where shells dropped when Germans tried for the kite balloon.
Wednesday, April 5th 1916
7.30-12.30pm. As D. lay in the hut Sgt Abbott came in and told Creedon and I to go to Capt hut and help with papers. We did so and had some brisk work for an hour or so. During it Captain said “I suppose you know you proceed to Infantry class on the morrow for a fortnight. I think you will be ready for leave on your return I have you on my early list.”
Of course I wasn’t half pleased. Hope he sticks to his word and nothing unforeseen happens.
Shally returned today. He will go on leave shortly, meantime he goes to canal bank.
Thursday, April 6th 1916
Midnight to 3.30am working. Wrote letter to Hilda telling her of probable leave. 3.30am Bentley would not allow me to go to hut so lay on floor. No sleep.
Up at 6.30, breakfasted and packed up. Caught the ration wagon and went as far as the dump. Then had a tiring walk as far as the J camp. It is well situated in open country.
Saw Syd at door of tent, appears comfy and plenty of grub. I have a little rest but in the evening go for a sharp stroll around the countryside.
Very cold night, Syd goes off somewhere. Suppose it is the farm Shally told me of. Syd gave me a list of fatigues to make out for the men.
Still no letter from Hilda. I feel a little worried.
Friday, April 7th
A letter at last!
A rather successful day with the boys. I think we shall have a very happy time at the school. I walk to Poperinghe in the evening for letter and shopping. A pleasant walk which I enjoyed and a nice evening.
At the 59th they told me Division had been shelled, the Officers Mess smashed up, the pump and a farm, but no one injured. Consider I am lucky to be out of it.
Walk back and meet many French going on permission. I received another letter from Hilda and a good photo of her. She says Ma is not very well. A victory in Mesopotamia.
The boys in our tent say I am very clumsy tumbling over everything.
Saturday, April 8th 1916
Nothing much to report. Was told that rumours of Holland declaring war on Germans were abroad at canal bank. I scarcely think it true, but it would make a deal of difference.
Cold sharp fine day, class improving. He Sgt tells us many curious tales of foreign parts. Syd and I go for a grand walk along new made roads through the flat country and by dark woods.
The ruddy flash of shrapnel in the air forwards canal bank. Syd in a very facetious mood as he marks exam papers. In the evenings he floats off in a mysterious way to some secret place and pretends he had been for a run. I fancy he visits some “Lady” myself.
Sunday, April 9th; Monday, April 10th; Tuesday, April 11th 1916
Class as usual.
Wednesday, April 12th 1916
Class as usual. Hear they were shelling Poperinghe. This was the evening we went to the Barbers. Also the Germans tried to take the Yorks trenches. They were defeated being repulsed with a loss of 70 or more.
Thursday, April 13th 1916
Class as usual, boys doing fairly well. Very nice boys too. They are jolly decent lads good natured and jovial. One of them is a Yorkie.
Higgins and another from Doncaster, Ford and Ryan another Yorkie Mainie is a comedian in civil life. I have met some nice boys in these classes.
Friday, April 14th 1916
Eve of our removal to goodness knows where. Hear that the Germans attacked on our front two nights ago. They lost many and were repulsed and unfortunately our Cornwalls lost best part of 200.
Sweeny stood on parapet directing artillery fire. They say we captured a German Officer with plans of great attack on this line, and also in consequence leave cancelled and men recalled. What awful luck if true, after I have written, poor Hilda. It makes me feel miserable.
Journey in motor Lorry with the class to Esquelbecq. Much singing and laughter. Syd and I clear up the hut allotted to us and make shelters etc.
Saturday, April 15th 1916
Still no letter from Hilda nor a parcel. I feel pretty pessimistic altogether. I do not like the attitude of Syd. He is the Overlord, the know all who wants to do all the interesting work and who I fancy thinks I cannot train my own boys. Now he is putting them into one class.
After 7.30 or close on 8pm I went by myself for a walk down the narrow road. It was a calm night and as I went I noticed the shadows of the bushes on the white road and the tall trees on my left lifting their heads to the clear sky. A dark pool reflected the star studded heavens, chief of which was brilliant, beautiful Venus.
I stayed, drank in the beauty and listened. Across the fields in the quietness came a solitary hoot from some wakeful owl and presently the baying of dogs to the moon. I thought of home and mother and returned thoughtfully hut-wards. There I found Larry Lamb in the hut part of the advance guard.
Sunday, April 16th 1916
Feeling rather ill but carry on. After tea I took out my Emerson and went the same walk as previously, although it was a cold night, it was fine and sunny. I journeyed part way with a young Frenchman and chatted with him.
Turning to a side road I read the Essays for a while and walked slowly back, not having much energy for this. A very sleepless night.
Monday, April 17th 1916
Too ill to rise. I stay in bed all day, aching in every limb and chest. I grow a little better as the day advances. Later this is apparently a case of French fever according to Dr. Savage. His son had contracted the same. Mine must have come from the boys in the Infantry class.
Wednesday, April 19th 1916
Take the class in sending practise. Weather still cold, windy and raining. Every prospect of a big fight on this front soon. That is evidently the reason leave is stopped.
Thursday, April 20th 1916
I take the class in sending practise. First time for fortnight get 2 green envelopes. Wrote home to Hilda.
Walk to DIV HQ with letters, go through Esquelbecq and turn down side rd. Pause by a pond which was reflecting the fold from the flaming west and absorbed the evenings glories. Presently I came out on the old familiar narrow road.
I stood there with the western wind fanning my face, and looked across the fields of freshly springing corn to where a long line of tall trees swept down with but one break of some few hundred yards. Across the break, the dark woods reassured and below them clustered and nestled the red tiled dwellings of the village.
Looking to the distance the break I saw rearing to the Heavens, the hill on which is Cassel, the main buildings of which I could faintly see silhouetted against the sky. And as I looked there came stealing to me across the fields, the vesper of the bells of Esquelbecq in some sweet religious intonation, perhaps of French Catholicism. It was from the church which I now saw, just hidden behind the trees, to the left of the break. Enough, my ecstasy was complete.
“Good” Friday, April 21st 1916
Nothing doing. Hear leave starting shortly.
Saturday, April 22nd 1916
9am Exam begins, a very good result. Raining hard all day, so much so that I decide to stay at the hut and parade next morning. I do so and stay indoors whilst Syd goes to look for digs. Read the Walking Gentleman.
Sunday, April 23rd 1916
Go on Parade 9am. No duty so I am clear for the day. I get some new toggery from the QMS. After tea I go out and sit on a gate reading Emerson and afterwards wander back full of wonder if I shall get home, half wishing I shall and half not so wishing.
“Easter” Monday, April 24th 1916
On Parade in the morning am afterwards told I take on the register at 5pm. I stroll in the afternoon round by the lanes until tea time. Have a fairly busy night. I am not on the leave part for tomorrow. I hope it may be next week.
Tuesday, April 25th 1916
This morning I walked out from Esquelbecq a mile to an unfrequented road. Here I sat on a low grassy bank full in the enveloping glories or a profuse sunshine.
To my left I had as a neighbour, a tree, a silent friend whose branches were occasionally the home of the song of birds. The pale blue sky, serene as a God and flicked by bare of white cloud seemed to say, I am still, I am alone in my quiet and my dignity, admire and worship from afar and humbly.
Oh the song, the sweet song of the birds. From everywhere, from nowhere it comes, a withdrawing of the curtains of heaven. I can see the as yet leafless tree dark against the sky, the rooks nest black nucleus amongst the lacework of branch.
Some of the trees are just clothing themselves in their first garment of green or suggestion of brown. Rarer still but even more beautiful are the trees of white and pink blossom. Veritable brides of the field are they. Sublime beauteous morn of spring; foretaste of heaven on earth here and now.
Evening sat in the same place, I view the great orb of sun almost sunk behind the woods. Farewell welcome guest! Then goest yet thine influence as that of a gracious guest remains.
Wednesday, April 26th 1916
I can hear the strains of Georgia come across the fields from Wormhoudt where one of our bands is playing it. I am full of memories of old camps and my old regiment as the further strains of old folks at home follow I feel pensively sad and think of Old England and home.
Go for a long walk around and coming back through Esquelbecq meet Sgt Bullock who tells me I am in orders for leave. I am excited and can scarcely sleep for thinking of it.
Thursday, April 27th 1916
Make my preparations and at 5pm go to office with the boys and boards GS wagon to Hazebroucke. Stay in Rest camp all night till morning. Catch 6am to Boulogne. Very tedious journey arrive at noon and marched to Rest camp at top of hill. Told no boat till next day.
Friday, April 28th 1916
Hazebroucke Rest camp 6.30 to Boulogne in tent with boys. Sleep better.
Saturday, April 29th 1916
Up at 6am breakfast and all marched down to ship. Cross very happy and arrive at Folkestone. Entrain and arrive at London just too late to get 1.40 to Hull. Meet two sailors also Bayes and Gray of Vico battery.
Have dinner and get shave, wash etc. Catch 5.45pm after sending telegram. Food, on journey singing all the way. Hilda, Elsie and Will meet me. Hilda and I take taxi with Elsie and arrive about 10.30pm and greet Dad and Ma.
Sunday, April 30th 1916
In during the morning. In the sunny afternoon walked across the fields to Hull. Hilda pointing out to me where the bombs dropped in the raid. Called at 83 and afterwards at Wills for an hour or so. Afterwards we took tram across and walked old Sutton Lane home.
Monday, May 1st 1916
Sat in during morning but trained it to Hornsea in the afternoon and strolled by the sea and the cliffs when we saw the N.F. digging trenches and the guns mounted on the cliff. Walked to Mrs. Spirett and had tea then for another short walk and thence to Mr. Coates and had another tea and chat.
Trained it home at 7.40pm having spent an enjoyable day. Mr. and Mrs. Pocock called and chatted on reincarnation and kindred subjects.
Tuesday, May 2nd 1916
Call at 83 in the afternoon and have tea, and after tea Willie calls and we go to Lizzies for an hour or so till unfortunately the buzzers go and we are in a quandary. I put the street lamp out by climbing. Finally Hilda and I decide to walk to the station. We do so but no trains running. So we set off in a drenching rain and walk to Sutton. It was quite enjoyable and we chatted all the way. I helping Hilda along.
Found Mrs. Bradley sitting with Ma. Zepps been as far as Hedon but driven off but visited York and did damage. During evening at 83 Mrs. Birce and Mrs. Horn were there.
Wednesday, May 3rd 1916
Rather late up after our last night’s wet walk. After dinner Dr. Savage called and talked about him son in France. Dad goes with him to Hull and Ma and I and Hilda walked in across the fields, and later Hilda and I to Whitby for tea where Dad joins us all.
Go to the soldiers club on the Bev Rd baths and enjoy the concert. Go home by train.
Thursday, May 4th 1916
Go to Constable St with Hilda, calling at Mrs. Shalgoskey’s on the way along. Spend afternoon chatting with the family Charlie and Hilda at home. I bid them a sorrowful farewell at 6pm and proceed with Hilda to the station and home.
Go to Carnoks to see the family and then the Miss Barkers for a bath. Return home, last night with my dear wife.
Friday, May 5th 1916
Quiet morning. In afternoon Hilda and I lie down we hope for good luck. It gives me some grounds for it. Afterwards Rev Coleman calls to see me and chats.
Go into Hull by 7 train and call at Whitby. There we have a sing song and a good supper. Vic and Elsie go to station with us we catch the 11.25 train to London. Wait at Selby hour and half in the waiting room. At Selby see Fitson and his girl in the carriage which we enter.
Saturday, May 6th 1916
The four of us travel in darkened carriage to King’s Cross. Get breakfast there. Poor Hilda scarcely eats anything. They come to see us off and Hilda breaks down before she departs. I feel it sorely.
Arrived at Folkestone we go to YMCA till boat time. A good crossing, marched from Quay to another rest place till 7.30pm when we go to train. Fit and I talk and eventually sleep till train arrives at Hazebroucke.
Sunday, May 7th 1916
Arrive Hazebroucke 2.30am sleep till 7am. Breakfast in café, catch train and arrive 11.30am. Get parcel and letter. In a beautiful calm evening I walk out and write my diary leaning against a tree.
I think of home and Hilda and recollect how the poor dear little girl melted into tears when I left her. Her soul seemed full of scarcely suppressed emotion. What love must have been behind it all. It makes me sad, ah my dearest I love you who are so far away now. May God grant a speedy peace if honourable and a safe return to home and she. The quietness of the country is almost painful in its suggestiveness as I write.
Monday, May 8th 1916
On parade 9am taken to the range to shoot. 25 of us shoot. Bill Poynter shoots on my target and so I get one of my shots disallowed making me tie with 2 others 24 out of 25. We three, Denton Smith and I shoot off. I get 2 bulls and three inners to 1 bull of Smith and none of Denton’s so winning the 3 francs and championship.
Afternoon do the post with Denton and at 5-9 do Smith’s duty as he is ill. Very busy indeed.
I read Mark Twain’s “Tramp Abroad”. I always enjoyed this book. Also finish Lodge’s “The War and After” which I think very fine, his philosophical remarks being very apt and sound. It was always my opinion from the first that this war was due in the large respect to the teaching or misunderstanding of Metoche’s works. One remark of Lodge’s strikes me forcibly and is true to my experience viz. That early spring in its beauty is almost painful in its pleasure.
Tuesday, May 9th 1916
Shally and I take a class at the hut with Bullock not a too successful one. Finish early and have a snooze. After tea I go for a walk though slight rain is falling. Sit on a plough under a tree, the whole country is 1 vivid green and beautiful and restful.
I read Armstrong on Martineau’s “Study of Religion” and find it stimulating. The flight of an insect set me thinking of what its value and its immortality if any. I remembered Shiller’s remark that immortality would depend on the strength of memory and deduced from it many comforting reflections based on the affections of family life and their permanence in memory.
I watch the dark rain clouds drift across the evening sky and listen to the rustling of the leaves above blown by the wind. The air is cool and soothing.
Wednesday, May 10th 1916
Anyone who lives and basks in the sunshine of a noble life and song cannot fail to reflect somewhat of its glory. Similarly a person living in and realising the sunshine of God’s irreverence cannot fail to be a mirror of the Divine attributes. Experience teaches and confirms this.
The above was written as I sat under the same beautiful green branches as previously, the evening being a perfect one. I only did cooks mate today. As I walk along a beautiful lane I ponder upon “Authority of the Saints” and I see that the more a great man and pious is true to his light and to the results of his meditation with God, the more is his authority on spiritual subjects to be accepted.
I see no use in decrying authority of this kind and in so far as the church has been true, so far shall I accept its authority and dictum.
Thursday, May 11th 1916
Parade in helmets in morning. No duty. Walk to the single tree and sit and read Brierley’s book. The chapter on the “Divine Indifference” in which he points out that the laws of nature to be of utility and beneficence must be constant and unvarying and hence at times involve the destruction of men good as well as bad, suggests to me a thought.
It is this, if God suspended these laws in the case of danger to a good man so that water would not drown nor fire burn, then we should get the spectacle of men being “good” for what they could get out of it and religion even more than a present would be but an instrument of self interest. So we see the hardships and rigours of life safeguard a true manly faith and help us to “a fighting strenuous spirit” and yet made possible a faith based not on self interest but genuine love of God.
Poperinghe shelled. GDs Sig Office hit also ten GDs killed forty wounded.
Friday, May 12th 1916
Try on new respirators at 9am parade. Very good one, but they would not prevent the bleaching of the hair. On at 12.30 as check.
Domville goes on leave. How my thoughts go with him to England walk to the gates in the country and read JB and afterwards part of the New Testament. All this makes me more and more aware of the greatness, the suggestiveness of the soul and its life.
How am I developing. Is there any difference am I merely sentimental and a withdrawer from men and the world. If I am, I have good reasons for this. I prayed for help and guidance by a tree, for I am spiritually in need of help.
I have thought intensely of Hilda of home and England and pray that I might return to create love greater than I have heretofore shown. Nor do I forget my covenant re “Desiree” should we be so blessed.
Saturday, May 13th 1916
On at 7.30am rained hard in the afternoon. Have show at Zeggert Chapelle. Team of males got first prize. In the evening went a walk on the lane and along the railway part way. Returned and went on duty.
They say the machine gunners have gone to the Anzacs and the DMT are taken away and also that we are to follow the guards to south possibly to Armentières or Arras. Possibly we shall only be here a fortnight that is on this front.
Had a fair sleep and in the morning (14th) climbed to the top of the tower of the chateau and view the country. Had a nice letter from Hilda.
Sunday, May 14th 1916
After night duty cleaned myself and went through the lane to the plough, where I read “War and Culture” in the English Review. Reflections amongst others which resulted in this article Rawlinson says “culture of the mind is the result of the observations of nature”.
I can well believe it; I am intensely captivated by nature and its beauties and methinks surely some inner change must be wrought by a constant observation of and pleasure in nature. I long to pursue this course through my life to acquire through observation this poetry and intensity of soul and love of nature resulting in high faith and belief in a noble destiny.
Also I long to be able to teach, and direct a young life in similar channels and in a way experience has suggested. Will this avail before the counsel of the Deity? I cannot entirely think so for what of so noble a soul is Rupert Brooke and others who have gone under in this war.
Monday, May 15th 1916
After parade I laid down for awhile then rose and went out for a walk and sat on the plough reading the Baptist Times. I examined the structure of some flowers and regarded nature around me with pleasure. I wondered sitting there “how far the aesthetic and the love of the beautiful entered into my desire for God and a spiritual interpretation of nature.”
I reflected that when I used to go to the Unitarian Church, it was the quietness of the interior, the beauty of the hymns such as “I know not where the islands lift. Their fronded palms in air. I only know I cannot drift beyond his love and care.” Here imagination would picture islands of beauty, of palm and surf coupled with the beauty of the shore, the affections exemplified in the last line.
Yes, I should say beauty is surely one of these steps. Is there not also a “beauty of holiness?” (this written on the gate).
Tuesday, May 16th 1916
Not on at 7.30 as I am to proceed with Shally and S.E. Thompson to 60th Bde. Heard with sorrow that the new dispatch rider was killed last night through a collision and behind thrown under a thrown on Wormhoudt road. The wagon takes us to the 60 at Wormhoudt. Situate in a large building with considerable grounds get a card from Hilda.
I go for a walk in the afternoon towards Esquelbecq and lie down by the hedge, returning at tea time. In the evening go for a walk with Shally and Thompson to Wormhoudt. On at 9pm, a rather busy night. I come across some remarks by a “De Casseres” on Shakespeare his religion. From them I judge him to be a follower of Metoche. I disagree profoundly. I must get hold of a criticism of Metoche’s “Philosophy and Ethics.”
Wednesday, May 17th 1916
I get down at 3.30pm upstairs. Rise at 8.30am and go out into the meadow by the stream. Intensely hot, I lay down in the high grass and am quite hidden.
Wrote to Hilda and as I’m doing so Burdom comes up so I chat with him on various subjects including a story we both had read by A and C. Askew.
Lie down in afternoon and on at 5pm. Busy enough, a concert by “The Pyjamas” was held in the grounds but I listened over the phone to the band in the chateau grounds in Esquelbecq. Re-read the article on “War and Culture” which is simply immense.
Thursday, May 18th 1916
I wandered down to another meadow and sat down by the stream, undressed and washed and bathed and afterwards lay down in the sun. It did me a world of good. On at 12.30pm, I got a letter from home, someone has been telling her the war will last years yet!
Goodness! If it does, how am I going to make it? It is an exaggeration I should say. After tea walk to Wormhoudt and buy supper.
Tomorrow at 2am we set off for the line staying first night at Poperinghe. I heard we were starting a month’s bombardment today. Well I hope we shall be safely through strolled to the stream and sat on its banks reading JB.
A quotation it would do me good to carry out if I had more backbone “The supreme human achievement is to make resolutions and keep them.” “If a man cannot resolve for a lifetime, let him resolve for one day on the morrow his willpower will be all the stronger for the effort.”
Friday, May 19th 1916
Unable to sleep through sounder going below. Up at 2am breakfast and march with brigade to Poperinghe from Wormhoudt. Misty and cool early on but intensely hot later and the roads hard to the feet. The hops very green and growing finely. The Belgians everywhere putting up houses of mud and earths. The soldiers arrive Pop 11am and immediately go on duty. Our billet is not a bad one.
The grounds are lovely lawns and flowerbeds avenues of trees, ponds fringed by trees and bushes and here and there hidden by the foliage are statues or pedestals. Thompson goes back to Div as all are now to work two shifts.
Saturday, May 20th 1916
Spend much time in the garden lying on the grass and sleeping or dozing. The two shifts makes it hard work and tiring. I manage to get a sleep from 2am till 6am. On from 4pm till midnight.
Sunday, May 21st 1916
Wrote home and to Hilda no letters since hers of Monday. Had a good sleep from midnight till 8am but afterwards a rough day. I was on 9am continuously Shally went with the advanced party at 2am whilst I remained with the rear.
Had a stroll at tea time and then waited till the 59th came to relieve us which they did after 9pm. Our party sets off at 10.50pm feeling tired. The moon rises as we progress but everything quiet. Pass through Vlamertinghe and on to Ypres.
At the Asylum we are met by guides who take us to the ramparts. We go through the maze of broken streets and houses and never shall I forget the utter desolation and wreck which surrounded me. We stumbled rather than walked and eventually arrived 2am.
They had hot tea for us which we gratefully appreciated. Shally remained on duty. I kipped down.
Monday, May 22nd 1916
Slept brokenly, on duty till 4.30pm. I soon got on the bed but the boys made such a noise sleep was impossible till 10pm I got two hours and felt all the better for it.
There was heavy shelling in the afternoon. The square and Cloth Hall being the objects of attention, though many heavies smashed over the church just outside. Not much damage done.
Tuesday, May 23rd 1916
On at midnight, got very hungry and thirsty and nothing to satisfy them. Also I was very sleepy all night and could scarcely keep awake, dozing and awaking almost continuously. Not had I much luck off duty, for a bombing class came into the dugout and made a noise.
However I stayed until duty time at 4.30pm my letter arrives at 11pm, I was pleased to get it but Hilda gave me no information. I am very pessimistic. Read Russell’s book “Golden Hope” which I liked greatly.
Retired at midnight and had a fair night. I wrote Hilda but they refused my card of Ypres.
Wednesday, May 24th 1916
Relieve Shally at 9am. During morning I got a letter from Hilda and a paper from 83. The letter a good one but still not very optimistic. We can only wait and hope.
Another quiet day. The usual trouble with the piano so that I got no rest in the evening. Felt pretty washed out. Bob Darlington and I went to the moat for water. I went on at midnight feeling better than I really expected to.
Thursday, May 25th 1916
We set to and made a lamp burning candle grease to boil water on and made some ripping tea. This further bucked me up, so that I sat and wrote a long nice letter to Hilda. I hope to get a good one in reply and favourable too.
Afterwards write diary. I had some of the parcel which had arrived damaged. Spent day in bed. Till tea time. On at 4pm till midnight, a cheerful night with the boys “Milligan” I call one of them which is not his name.
Early this morning, a beautiful fresh sunny morning. Syd, Graham and I went outside and walked amongst the ruins of the church, but found no souvenirs.
Friday, May 26th
Letter from Hilda. Mother had a successful operation on Sunday.
Reflections on certain tendencies and defeats in myself. “Cannot I obtain a stronger mastery over myself! Cannot I marshal my forces though they are but scattered and feeble! Cannot I hold to a definite policy in the running of my organisation cannot I cultivate the habit of holding my nose to the grindstone?”
Whatever hope I have of salvation lies in this direction. If I weaken my forces by doubting myself, by questioning my ability to stick to a “moral determination,” can I not reinforce myself by determining to resolve on any desirable course” for only one day?
That successfully done I can meet the morrow with a sense of duty discharged and an intensified will. This is possible but to do it I need increasing vigilance so that when the enemy arises and makes an attack in “mass formation” I must summon up my resolution “to fight for a day.” If I win it is “one to me” and ready for the next.
Saturday, May 27th 1916
On at midnight, while away the time by making tea. Very slow and sleepy night. Sleep till dinner and get a couple of hours in after 5 to midnight. Very tired.
War and Prov RJC says “what is now happening is the inevitable outcome of the ideals by which we have been living”. Holding as we do that the more of this worlds goods we could heap up to better and that physical wellbeing was the first of all considerations no wonder we fight to get and keep.
Germany has outdistanced us in this view of life and its meaning. And by the law of the good God all this has recoiled on itself and is destroying itself as it always must in the end. The possession of a spiritual nature implies religion and religion we must have not only as the sanction of all that we feel to be great good and beautiful in our total experience but as the very soul thereof.
It is often maintained that the artistic temperament can exist with religion just as morals can and do, but the answer to that is that neither of them ever really does. The artistic can wallow in sensuality but it is bound to feel the thrill of transcendental mysteries or it would not be itself.
Beauty is the external thrusting through into the temporal and always elusive. He who sees beauty sees God, though in a glass darkly.
Sunday, May 28th 1916
Before going on duty I laid in bed and listened to Judge playing some hymns and enjoyed them.
Monday, May 29th 1916
Germans shell us heavily and also Poperinghe. They dropped about 130 shells there. They also sprinkled all the roads in the neighbourhood.
Tuesday, May 30th 1916
This morning received a disappointing letter no luck again. I am determined to be satisfied yet. Poor Hilda she is very upset herself. I have got a cold coming on.
These two shifts are too much for anyone and the blackness of the billet is very depressing. Very heavy bombardment this morning, some few casualties. They shelled Pop too.
On at midnight make tea and when dawn comes I go outside to the church and get some marble for a bible, if ever, I get it made. Feel very off colour indeed. Get no sleep. After tea I sat in the wireless hut and talked with one of the boys who is from Hull, living in Beresford Ave. But now we have hope and strong, thank God. I pray that no harm now befalls till the consummation arrives.
Wednesday, May 31st 1916
Restless with cold in head, and the heavy bombardment outside. On at 4pm. Terribly slow night but I got a better sleep after. The bombers went over on a raid at 11pm but with what result I don’t yet know.
Thursday, June 1st 1916
Feel a bit better after a sleep. Aeroplane flew over Pop and dropped bombs. Talbot house suffered and some horses and a groom killed. On all night.
Friday, June 2nd 1916
About 9am enemy commenced heavy shelling of Ypres, not safe to go out. Many great shells burst with awful crash just outside our dugout. Brennan wounded going to latrines. I was going at the same time but desisted owing to heavy shelling, consequently I missed the burst of shrapnel.
Shelling continued through the day not allowed in the streets. Germans attack Canadians and Shropshire’s.
Rumoured they captured Canadian trenches. Also rumour of naval battle.
Great excitement, am feeling tired and not very brave. Think things are impending many wounded coming in from the fight. I think of Hilda and home. She will think of me I know when she hears of events.
Saturday, June 3rd 1916
Hear of the great naval battle for the first time. It first savours of a disastrous fight from our point of view. Very busy on lines all round. Things rather quieter but still exciting enough.
Sunday, June 4th
On midnight. Things generally quieter. Canadians won back lost positions and confident. Intermittent bombardment. Very tired out during night.
Reading Huck Finn, it is fine. Off at 9am and sleep uneasily till dinner time and tea time.
Wireless press gives Churchill words on naval fight off Jutland. Bad for us but worse for Germany, is the summary. Down at midnight.
Monday, June 5th 1916
Anniversary of our wedding day. Four years of married life. It has been happy in spite of ups and downs and separations. I hope the future will compensate for present disappointments. Early this morning was a rather heavy bombardment posted to “Sunday Chron.”
Tuesday, June 6th 1916
Some shelling during night keep things expectant. Shally gets message proceed on leave, lucky chap. Kilcorn comes up in morning. Shelling grows greater.
Germans attack our line but driven out by Shrops. Some anxiety about Canadians. Latest naval news gives German loss of 20 vessels. Hear Russians offensive started against Austrians taking 14 thousand and guns. Wounded German brought it late at night.
Things very quiet which suggests a rough time in the future. Cannot help thinking some serious movement by Germans hereabouts. Close on midnight German prisoner brought in wounded. Says they have in some of last reserves and much gas in trenches.
Wednesday, June 7th 1916
Good night’s sleep. Greeted with bad news. K of K and Staff lost at sea on way to Russia. Canadians yesterday lost Hooge just below us. Looks as if they will try and cut off Sanctuary Wood. Our place a direct line to Hooge.
Things quiet, but an ominous quiet. Hooge gives German advantages, expect fighting today or soon to regain. No further confirmation of the K of K rumour. Good news from Russia 25 thousand men and officers and 27 guns taken in Galicia.
Evening still quiet. Had a decent supper. Received a letter from Hilda. She agrees to The Special Time idea. May try it on Sunday night. Sat on bed and discussed the war the Kaiser and Revelations with Farr and Judge.
Thursday, June 8th 1916
6am. After quiet night Germans shelled considerably, falling just outside causing great concussion and fall of debris. 5 men hurt front of ramparts, damage to gun position apparently aeroplanes.
Very busy. Likely enough today will have to pay for yesterday’s quiet. Still no confirmation of K of K report, maybe German lies. Mr Balfour definitely give North Sea as a victory for us. Sleep till 4pm then on. Gas still hanging round, eyes very sore and throat irritated so that cough is aggravated.
Russians taken 41 thousand prisoners. K of K report unfortunately confirmed. This morning we had to rush or rather grope our way with tear blinded eyes to the funk hole for a time till the severity of the bombardment had waned.
The last pinnacle of the church brought down by enemy fire. 200 shells outside our dugout. Farr very funky.
Friday, June 9th 1916
4pm-midnight find “Freckles” and read it. It is great. Get a fair sleep again. Hear we are to move tomorrow but what time do not know. Things fairly quiet. Hear Brennan now in England and going on well. Wonder how Shally is enjoying himself. Russians still going strong, averaging 12 thousand prisoners a day.
Saturday, June 10th 1916
Spend the evening of today packing up. Dodge about till 12.30am and then march through desolate Ypres. Fortunately no shelling. We lose our way to the train and try to stop transport.
At Flam we got with a good natured driver who takes us right to Pop. Get down for a few hours. Wakened by Venning at 7.30 and go on duty.
Sunday, June 11th 1916
8am-3pm shift. Go out for much needed shave and shampoo. Have a little walk in the evening but very tired. Return and go on duty at 9pm an awfully sleepy night. Scarcely can keep awake, not allowed to sleep which is absurd back here. Get a little sleep in the morning. Russians now taken 72 thousand prisoners and naval victory greater than ever.
Monday, June 12th 1916
Had a ripping night’s sleep and wake up all the better for it. On at 8am but too lazy to write. Russians still doing grandly now, 106 thousand prisoners and nearing Lemberg.
I work at my souvenir a bit. Wonder if it will be good for anything. After tea go with Keohane and Burrows to pictures, quite enjoyed them. The other Burrows been drunk two days and creates disturbances in the billet. Today I finished reading Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter a most enchanting book.
Tuesday, June 13th 1916
Received two zero message re 1.30. Evidently an attack. Later 2.40 hear Canadians achieved their objective whatever it is. Took prisoners. Later I hear that our boys took part in this fight and a great part.
On the left they sent over gas and attacked successfully. In orders our division was complimented by the GOC Canadians for their valuable help. In this evening I went to the pictures with Burrows and Keohane very decent. On at 9pm.
Thursday, June 15th 1916
Was informed that I am being relieved at 60th by Rimmington. Impossible to sleep so go to baths, first time in 5 weeks. I decide to go with Shally to the new camp. Travel there along with the boys in the lorry. The camp situated off the road in a sweet little wood mainly of oak trees and oak bushes. The green huts look very picturesque nestled against the trees but I notice a few suspicious shell holes near our hut.
Hear we are again returning to Pop as this camp is within the zone of enemies 5.9’s. I am sorry as this is such a sylvan spot and would have constituted a holiday.
Friday, June 16th 1916
Woke this morning at 11am after the first night’s sleep for a long time. Shally and I slept together. Go on duty at 2pm I have both brigades on my line and have a rough time.
Shally writing many letters. When off at 9pm we go to the hut but not to sleep as we fondly imagined. Soon after 10pm the Germans sent gas over to the Canadians and also shelled. Evidently they thought we were bringing up reinforcements.
We set up an awful and effective bombardment lasting all night. Lizzie just behind us shook us to the foundations making sleep impossible. On at 7am we are informed by orderly.
Saturday, June 17th 1916
Very busy day in the office until 2pm. Pack up and go by lorry. McKnight had a fright a shell dropping near our hut. They shelled the wood this morning evidently trying to find Lizzie.
I am told that I go on night duty at 9 tonight. Captain said this morning if “things got too warm there was a nice ditch outside.” Cheerful!
Sunday, June 18th 1916
I got down from 3am upstairs along with Sykes. Had a very good sleep till 7.30am. After breakfast I lay down for a while but couldn’t sleep so spent a time with my brass work. Had a walk with Shally to the wagon lines, whilst there I collected an 18 pounder case for the base of the candlestick.
Had some cream for tea with the fruit Hilda sent me. At 9pm told to sleep upstairs again “because the Skipper won’t have all his eggs in one basket.” In other words if one lot of operators gets killed another lot will be available.
Monday, June 19th 1916
Good sleep which I really needed. Touch up my shell case a bit before going on a 12.30pm. Russians still going ahead. They have now got Czernovitch. Trouble seems to be brewing in Greece now.
There is some talk of developments taking place on our front soon. Hear Lt Reynolds wounded in the hand and Guy in the chest. The latter rather seriously. Millership also wounded. No doubt that the ramparts is a decidedly hot corner.
Got letter from Hilda. Poor girl! Seems to feel the monotony a bit. We must hope for some compensation after the war. Went to Canadian cinema with Shally and Venning.
Tuesday, June 20th 1916
On at 7.30am. Had a good night’s rest. Quiet morning Welsford on artillery. I give him some practice. In the afternoon I took my shell case to Mahoney to get it cut. In exploding cartridge cap for me Fitson hurt his finger.
After tea Shally I and Venning went to the pictures near the station. The Div band played and all together a good show. Send Hilda a card and at 10pm carry out the plan. Shally and I got down at 10pm but sleep slow in coming.
Wednesday, June 21st
Shally and I went for a nice walk out parallel to Elverdinge. Road through the hop fields and wandered round some quiet spots, one a tall avenue of trees running between dykes. Lie down for a while and then return and have a rest in the afternoon.
Friday, June 23rd 1916
7.30am-12.30pm and 9pm-7.30am Shally and I get a sleep in the afternoon and go to the pictures in the evening. On at 9pm. Our turn down at 3am. Make tea.
Saturday, June 24th 1916
In copying the orders regarding pay, I put Saturday instead of Sunday and consequently at YTR and wagon lines they parade wrong day. Captain says I must walk to these places and explain and thinks that will be enough punishment. Bet I don’t go all the same.
Go to the baths in the morning and have a snooze in the afternoon in the town hall. Do not sleep there on the termination of duty though I think it is a quieter place than the ordinary billet.
Sunday, June 25th 1916
On rations in morning, fine day and enjoy the walk to the dump. Whilst there see HRH Prince of Wales who is visiting the dump. He is on the staff of the guards. Seems very quiet and pleasant but not very robust looking.
12.30pm-5pm. Get paid and have hair inspection. Some of the boys with long hair have to wash the room out as a penalty. Shally and I go for a walk in evening. Pop seems a bigger place than I thought. Wander into the suburbs and lie in a field. The day beautiful and still hot at 6pm.
Hear something doing tonight. Later can hear an intense bombardment apparently preparatory to a raid.
Monday, June 26th
This morning hear 59th raided enemy trench at C29 successfully taking 6 prisoners and quantity of papers and loot. Corps commander congratulates 59th for “brilliant carrying out of carefully laid plan.”
Sorry to hear Coleman of 59th who was a hard worker was killed by machine gun fire and Hollands wounded.
Tuesday, June 27th 1916
7.30-12.30pm walk around to the wagon lines in the afternoon for my new smoke helmet and for my parcel.
Wednesday, June 28th 1916
Syd Crawley gave us a gas lecture in the morning which was interesting. He amused us by saying “above all don’t get the wind up, keep cool” advice like that from Syd is laughable. On at 12.30-5pm.
Call and buy some views for home then go to the Canadian pictures. In today’s report it says we are demolishing St Jacques Church Ypres which is near the Brigade at the ramparts. About time too. I shall always have recollections of that place. It was a danger spot.
Thursday, June 29th 1916
7.30am-12.30pm. Both have an hour’s sleep and feel better for it. Go to the station cinema where there were some excellent films. Return and go on duty.
Told we must not go down as there is a strafe on and the biys are going over on a raid. So we all stay up at midnight till 2am. Zero was at midnight.
Friday, June 30th 1916
No raid took place last night, but the Germans were very nervous sending over many shells. Have a sleep for an hour.
Sunday, July 2nd 1916
7.30-12.30pm. Reports to hand of British advance on front of 18 miles. 4th army and French army take part. Successful Sir Douglas Haig sends congratulatory telegrams.
Lie down in afternoon and do a bit of exercise too. Go for an evening’s entertainment at the station cinema. Many Belgian ladies there. We have to go on duty instead of take class tomorrow. Rather glad. Shally and I get down 10pm.
Monday, July 3rd 1916
Doing two shifts so nothing exceptional to report.
Tuesday, July 4th 1916
12.30 to 5pm – go to the fancies picture hall in the evening and before bed have a sing song. Sykes, Shally and I. Over progress is good on our front. Got letter from 83, they are now at Bridlington. Bernard cooks Division is in the push.
Wednesday, July 5th 1916
7.30-12.30pm. We get a pass for Brandhoek and in the afternoon which is pleasant we took the Ypres road and journeyed nearly as far as Flam turning then to the left but could not find the Hull Heavy Bty. Still it was a pleasant walk. After tea went to the Canadians and saw the Willard-Johnson fight.
On duty at 9pm. Gussy and Fat Brammer amuse us. Get a new man who has been at Gallipoli.
Thursday, July 6th 1916
Down at 3am until 8.30. Shally and I go for a walk around Abele Rd and across country to Proven Rd. Have a bit of excitement crossing a ford. Then we had a four course dinner and enjoyed it very much.
Have again got those hateful insects and tried to exterminate them. Think they came in the washing. On at 5pm. Our army and French making progress. Latter near Peronne (2m). Germans throwing men away.
Friday, July 7th 1916
Marking exam papers for Syd. Raining heavily in the morning. On at 12.30pm.
We go for a walk in evening round by the switch road and enjoy it. A really beautiful evening.
Sit in the grounds of Talbot house garden and also read a magazine in the ease of a hammock under the trees. The Yorkshire trio sing until sleep time.
Saturday, July 8th 1916
7.30-12.30. Corps say good news coming of German retirement on whole Russian front as a result of 3 German defeats. So far no official information or intimation. Our losses in the first push seem to have been heavy through MG fire. Walk to QM stores in the hot afternoon.
Return to tea and afterwards go to station cinema for last time this stay as Shally and I are to go to YTR (advanced headquarters) tomorrow. On at 9pm get first turn down. Letter and parcel from Hilda.
Sunday, July 9th 1916
Sleep well till 3am. Make tea which the boys enjoyed. Later Bentley says we must walk to wagon lines and then take transport for our kit which we leave at wagon lines. Shally and I walk to YTR.
He goes on at 12.30. I have a snooze in afternoon having had little nights sleep. YTR situated at a farm amidst typical Flanders scenery. Feeding and sleeping good. Office work rather worrying.
Monday, July 10th 1916
Captain Whitby killed this evening.
Have an enjoyable walk up to hospital farm with George Lee, sit under trees. Chat with him. On at 12.30pm, rather busy afternoon. Shally and I have another wander round in the evening which was glorious being bathed in sunshine, the sky blue and white with fleecy clouds. We watched an air dual, many aircraft being about.
Returned through the fields of corn splashed with blood red poppy and blue cornflower. During the night our contemplated attack was a failure owing to a premature smoke bomb. Enemy est trenches and shelled us heavy. Our losses large and attack unfortunately a failure. RCM bolted to the unfinished dugout during the bombardment of Pop.
Tuesday, July 11th 1916
7.30-1pm write home and to Hilda. Very busy indeed. Have a sleep in afternoon and a good walk through fields. On at 9pm. Germans been shelling Poperinghe heavily, send over a hundred in many duds. Still doing heavy damage. Our wires suffer as a shell knocked the corner off the signal offices along with the wires attached.
Wednesday, July 12th 1916
Have a sleep in morning and in the afternoon Lee and I go for a walk round the fields and watch one of our heavies replying to “Percy” the German gun in the tunnel which shells Pop. Here they damaged Pop and killed 2 Captains and 3 other Officers – still 17 out of twenty shells were dud – that is didn’t explode.
5-9pm RCM Smith dives for the dugout, his nerves are awful. Actually they had a band playing in the square in Pop whilst shelling. What brains! Or care for troops.
Thursday, July 13th 1916
Have a fine walk with George Lee round the fields of corn gay with poppy and cornflower. Back by road. Everything quiet. 12.30-5pm very busy. Comes on to rain heavily so stay in, with the 6th Div boys. Joe makes us laugh with his endless talk and arguments.
I go across the fields to the farm and get supper and chat with R G Arnan who says he will find out about the 146th Heavy Battery for me. He is most optimistic about our artillery and its superiority. Germans shell Pop again. Heard we caught a spy behind our new 9 inch guns arranging haycock as signals.
Friday, July 14th 1916
Hear 60th left us for destination unknown. Early on Percy started on Pop and later on enemy. Shelled Vlamertinghe unmercifully and until evening every half minute all transport held up. Our planes went up at tea time and one in particular crossed the enemy’s line under heavy fire. He returned and our 12 in started registering.
Away went the plane to see results and returned when our gun fired again. This happened five times and no reply from Percy. Nor has Percy been heard since. Later a Taube came over our lines. On at 9pm busy. Syd, Sergeant gone to HQ to move office to new camp. Too hot in Pop. Had supper at the “dugout”.
Saturday, July 15th 1916
Too busy to get sleep, owing to removing of wires at HQ. Taube came over at 4.30am and though heavily shelled bombed Poperinghe with what damage I do not yet know. Later, the damage of the bombs was nil. They fell outside the town. Very little sleep in the day.
Sunday, July 16th 1916
Up at 4am pack and cycle slowly to wagon lines. Very beautiful morning, promising a hot day. Hear Percy was put out by our 12th gun, certainly he has not fired since.
I am told to take cycle party to Esquelbecq. Rough and hard journey, my bike very stiff so that I am done up at the end. Stayed at Waton on Belgian border for something to eat.
Many fine girls going to church. Sykes runs into a dyke and I walk a good way. On duty at 5-9pm. New office. Happen to get a bed for the night. Our troops are doing well cavalry getting on the go.
Monday, July 17th 1916
Told we have the day off so I went into the meadow and along with Graham and Mitchell had a bathe. In the afternoon we laid on the grass in the sun. I wrote letters home. Am told that I take duty at 9pm all night we have a very busy time. I am on with Syd Crawley. He is Supt and I am register keeper. Kept going till 2am when I get to sleep.
Tuesday, July 18th 1916
After duty nothing doing except that in the afternoon I found a cosy place and the shelter of the hedge and there had a sleep till 4pm. Night fairly quiet strong rumours of our moving to the Armentieres front someday this week. Already one brigade is there and I hear another is going tomorrow.
Not much rest this time. It seems as if the big push was extending to us. In bed had a long chat with Yorkie of Pontefract.
Wednesday, July 19th 1916
Am doing 12.30-5pm. Went to Gibson to get shell case done but no tools. After tea went for a walk as Shally was 5-9pm. I walked to the old place by the tall tree and read the Hull Times. After this I got up and walked still further up by the lane almost to Wormhoudt.
Then I returned and sat myself against the tree. Tonight is perhaps the last time I shall see dear old Esquelbecq with its old castle and precious memories. Was it not from here I went on leave and wrote so many of my reflections? Tonight is calm cool and beautiful.
All around nature is most bountiful. Great fields of dense corn above whose tops I see a lighter fringe of tree tops backed by a dark green mass of immense trees and behind which is Esquelbecq. Farewell sweet Esquelbecq of sweet memories! Tomorrow perhaps I go to another place but none which can have better associations.
I took out dear Hilda’s photo and looked earnestly at it tonight. I thought of the old courting days when she looked her love at me through tear dimmed eyes and I too gave her of my love. I hope to arouse on her such great emotions in the future.
Saturday, July 22nd 1916
Slept from 4am till 7.30am. After breakfast went into field and lay down near the hedge. There is a grand view across to the hills, the country being very fine in various greens. Had a walk around the town after dinner with Shally.
We have now discarded all superfluous kit and are ready to travel light. Is it marching? Get a card from Hilda. I wish I was back to Blighty with her.
Sorry to hear Captain Whitby was killed on the 10th. I always had that fear, for infantry stand so little a chance. I wrote Hilda and a letter to Mr. and Mrs. Whitby.
Sunday, July 23rd 1916
After tea I was going to the cinema but found it closed so I went into the YMCA and there a recital was to be held at 7pm. So I sat down, the recital was given by a Mr Alexander an elderly man. He was fine giving selections by Barry Gould – The Building of St. Sophia – Dickens Flight of Smily – David Copperfield.
Ocean Waif from Clark Russell. The Garden (or title similar) by Rudyard Kipling – It was great and I enjoyed it immensely and could have wished it longer. Foulke and I walked round the town to get something to eat but all places were closed. Met Buxton and O’Neill and wandered round and finally persuaded Madame of Pastry Shop to make us some coffee. Then we went home to kip.
Monday, July 24th 1916
Pack up and go and get a decent dinner with the boys and return. At 2.30pm we set off, I being in the marching party. We put our kits on the wagons at the end of the first mile otherwise we could not keep up with the columns. After that we marched well, singing and joking.
It was after 7 when we arrived at Hondeghem, we put in around a farmstead and had a good tea of Bully pickles and much tea. I bagged some backed beans for tomorrow. After we kipped down the glee party, i.e. Cooper, Shally, Self, Condie and Davidson, sang and kept things lively thereby arousing the ire of the Boy Sgt who threatened us with fatigues next morning. He did this but we didn’t do the fatigues not half!
Tuesday, July 25th 1916
Slept in the barn well enough. Up at 6am. Packed and marched to Cassel station where we loaded the wagons and embarked. Travelled rather quick through fine country in the usual cattle trucks. I sat or laid near the door and enjoyed it. Arrived Douelens a place situate in a valley about 7pm.
Evidently a brewing centre, but a fine little place, very much more French than the northern places we have seen. Also evidently more prosperous. We walked around and got some tea. Slept in a rest billet with a 104 wire beds in we’re about 20 miles from the firing line here but we move tomorrow again.
Wednesday, July 26th 1916
Parade at 9am. Clean the wagon lines then walk round town and get dinner. At 2pm pack up and travel on wagons taking turns at walking with Thom behind. We go a good 10 or 12 miles through country very much like Salisbury plain and dist.
At 7.30pm we arrive at Louvencourt and put up in the grounds of the great chateau. The grounds are like a park. Search for a place to sleep as billet unpleasant. Find a place under some bushes where were plenty of leaves and shelter. Great cannonading like that of September 25th was going on. We are now in the region of the great push being nearest to Gommecourt.
Thursday, July 27th 1916
Late on duty as we slept well under the bushes, although it rained we were quite dry and comfortable. Got a nice letter from Hilda during the morning. The day being hot we went out into the park and slept till 5 o’clock. Should have been on duty all night but Bentley told us to go to the 61
Brigade who are in the village of Bus, as a matter of fact only quarter of a mile away. Look around for a place to sleep outside again, the billet provided was too dark and smelly. Find a convenient tree where S and I make our kip. In the dim nightlight I look through the leaves and branches at the sky and listen to the guns. Did not sleep over well.
Friday, July 28th 1916
Up at 7.30am and went on duty for a few minutes. I packed up my things and fell in with those marching. We set off, the day was terrifically hot and we walked through slightly undulating country, very open and with no shade from the intense heat. However the journey was not more than one of 3 miles.
We reached it about 10am, a very interesting though deserted village our billet was in a priest’s house. There was a fine library and a magnificent garden at least twenty times larger than ours at home. I also wandered through several other houses, all bearing marks of ill usage and depletion.
Our dugout was a cellar under the priest’s house, the beds were taken from the houses and in some cases the boys had got very good articles of furniture. They also got white shirts, counterpanes and ladies underwear.
Saturday, July 29th 1916
On duty 9pm. Our batteries and 12 in gun having been active the enemy retaliated in the early morning with heavy and shrapnel. They sent about 20 rounds over, searching all the village and confines. Some splinters fell quite close. A little later we heard 2 officers who had slept out against orders were killed and six men wounded.
I did not get any sleep, being busy writing letters home. Our line man told me of Billy Poynter’s death at the base hospital. I had not expected it, thinking he was getting better. I felt very sorry as Billy was in our room 56 at Woking.
Slept a little in the dugout and wandered around a little in the afternoon. On duty at 4.30pm little doing. I finished my letters. Had a very comfortable bed.
Sunday, July 30th 1916
Wandered about during a brilliant morning. Spent most of the evening discussing the distribution of medicos in the poorer and richer districts, with Cpl Smitham. I spoke for State Service. He dissented, saying the valuable bedside manner would be lost, also urging the unfairness of coercing the medical faculty. I suggested what about the unfairness the poor have to suffer now.
After the debate I climbed to the attic to watch the trenches in the distance. The Germans sent up very lights scores at a time. George Coates asked if I would share his bed. I did so, but wished I had not. He was very restless and I did not get much sleep. Had a cold bath this afternoon.
Monday, July 31st 1916
On at 8am. Spent the morning discussing with the boys. Having much fun with Matom and Coates. I also read “Daddy Longlegs” by Jean Webster. I cannot say how much I am charmed by this book it has possessed me.
During the afternoon Smitham and I rigged up the broken hammock with a large fishing net. Completed it after tea and spent the evening reclining in it. He in one end and I at the other carried on our medical discussion and further discussed the desirability of personal inquiry in spiritualism. I took the affirmative he the negative.
It was very enjoyable in the cool of the evening smoking cigarettes eating sweets and discussing. But Fritz started shelling so we descended. About 10.30pm Curtis and Smitham saw a signalling light from a barn across the road. A rapidly disappearing figure retreated and they pursued but he was too quick and Curtis fell into a shell hole. It was reported and all units informed.
Tuesday, August 1st 1916
Germans shelled us for 20 minutes. The Brigade Major and signalling officer and others came into the cellar. It seems a sequel to the spy’s signalling. George tells us of his sweet hearting adventures. From 2.30am I had off and on sleep till 6.30am after breakfast I went over to the barn and inspected the spy’s haunt. A broken down barn with an upper floor, a ladder leading to the tiled roof was what I saw. A broken tile gave a view over to the enemy’s line, a dixie blanket and fragments of food were also evident. I tried sleeping in the hammock but they commenced shelling so I went in the cellar and stayed there till 2pm. During the evening I finished reading “Daddy Longlegs.”
Wednesday, August 2nd 1916
Started reading “They and I” by Jerome. Find it very interesting.
Thursday, August 3rd 1916
On at 8am. Just as I got on duty the Germans started shelling and dropped one near and one right through the mess spoiling the staff’s breakfast.
Spent some of the afternoon in the hammock. After tea went with Shally to the canteen. Going on duty at 9pm I saw the last traces of a glorious sunset as I passed up the path and through the Orchard. The sky was a pale green until close to the horizon where it shaded into the deepest purple. The green was slashed with bars of crimson. The whole effect was a very delicate one. I thought how Hilda would glory in it and in the wealth of blossom and foliage abounding here.
Friday, August 4th 1916
Had a fair sleep in the morning another hot day. Very busy during evening as evidently something is to materialise later. The church was surrounded a spy being suspected there as the clock had been altered. It turned out to be the work of Officers. Still this was the church where spies had communicated by means of the clock.
As I came off at 9pm our guns had started severe bombardment and the Bosh was replying on our trenches. I went to the attic and watched the intensely absorbing scene, but it must have been hellish there. Scores and hundreds of lights red green white and yellow lit up the country. Great biting flashes betokened the belching of the guns whilst the busting shells were like some fiery will-o-the-wisp on wings of electricity darting here and there. Out of nothingness they seemed to come and as suddenly return. The earth shook with the intensity of the shocks.
Saturday, August 5th 1916
On at 1pm. I finished what I thought a very funny letter to Hilda. Finish reading Jacobs’ “Odd Craft”.
Sunday, August 6th 1916
8am on duty, spent my time when not working in drawing sketches. In the afternoon I went into Renards house and sat by the window drawing the countryside. Tried to get a little sleep before tea.
Went for a walk with Shally to the canteen at 7pm. Shortly after 9pm heard that 3 Sgts of the MGC had been killed playing with a dud anti-aircraft shell, another was injured.
Much fun was caused in the office through Division asking particulars about the German dog which came over to our lines. He was small, black had no tail and was well fed. Fond of dugouts and answered to Fritz. Has he been sent over as a spy or is he inoculated with some disease? Several such dogs have come over lately. I never knew until today the Yorkshires’ Airedale had gone over to the German lines.
Monday, August 7th 1916
Off at 8am I got no sleep as all was bustle getting ready to move. Early dinner over I lay in the garden writing up an idea of mine. I glanced round a charming garden and surrounding which we were leaving looking with regret at them for the last time. Somehow or other they seem tinged with romance to me.
It was 6pm before we left marching almost individually. We passed through rolling country like Salisbury plain and through Courcelles finally entering a more hilly track entering a valley whose hillsides gradually steepened. Up a steep side lane we went on coming to Corgnent and at the top found our encampment amidst the trees and bushes. I really got quite lost finding our tent. The thunder of the artillery was absolutely intense and continued so all night.
Tuesday, August 8th 1916
Spent a rather restless night in the tent. It was cold. After cleaning and breakfast I walked down into the tiny village for purchases. Returning, I strolled out to the hillside and there sat and wrote this diary.
It is a hilly country like our Yorkshire Wolds with valleys and dales well wooded. The encampment where we are is amidst the bushes and trees. The bushes are a veritable maze being anything from a few inches to 7 feet in height. Amongst these are dotted our tents. It is a sunny warm day, the never-ending roar of the artillery being the only un-peaceful sound. Pale blue and hazy is the sky with scarce a cloud, only the faintest white being visible.
Wednesday, August 9th 1916
7.30-1pm in the office. Still very hot day. At 9pm I went on and started writing my long letter to Hilda and home. I told her the egg story I had made up and several other interesting things. I had got a very nice loving letter from her.
I went outside and saw a string of white lights ascending to the sky, this occurred 3 times. I do not know what it meant. Artillery busy. The moon was well on the way to setting behind the trees in a flood of silvery light which showed up the widely extended skyline where plain and heavens met. It was lovely and cool. I only got two hours sleep.
Thursday, August 10th 1916
There was no sleep for me as they made a deal of noise playing cards. I laid about till afternoon duty arrived, it was so hot. An eventful day.
There was another grand sunset. The sky was mottled with white and gold clouds, very small, this was in the higher reaches. Nearer the horizon the clouds were feather shaped one huge cloud being like the feather of a quill pen. Purple on the upper and gold on the under edge. Still the same old gambling until 1am. It has thrice accursed.
Friday, August 11th 1916
No sleep in morning although I tried to make up for last night. Hear we are being relieved. Limber comes for us and we proceed to Couin which lies about 2 miles away on the hilltop. The small picturesque church is at the top. I get a share of a tent in the fields with Skelton of SC.
I go into the dell where is a running stream and have a swim and bathe after tea. Then sat on the hillside and sketch and admired the hilly wooded countryside.
Saturday, August 12th 1916
On 8.30 parade. Very hot sunny day. We cross the stream and climb over to the opposite hillside and set up a heliograph and flapper apparatus. We do some interesting and good work, across the valley. It puts me in mind of Scarborough racecourse and the view across to the Yorkshire Wolds.
Bathe after dinner. We went out to a different direction and signalled across. The boys went for another bath and after tea I with them. Then went to the canteen for biscuits and made some jelly. After lights out I had a long chat with Skelton on Scarborough festival. He tells me interesting things about the dances.
Sunday, August 13th 1916
Church parade at 9.45am. Rev. Bulstrode hits out about attendances at holy communion. He wonders what it is that keeps men away. I wonder too, what mixed motives act and in what proportionate strength. It seems an interesting psychological phenomena to analyse. I am aware in my own case of mixed motives actuating in this matter of religion. Ought one to go to a service of which the rarity he is not certain? Yet I have felt a benefit and nearness, a spiritual comfort from the service. Then the knowledge that repentance for the past cannot be constantly maintained. I know I cannot live the ideals implied when again in a worldly environment.
After tea went out through on wood and perched myself overlooking fields and country and wrote Hilda. As I returned the sun burned dully an orange orb amidst a ruddy murky glow as of a furnace fire seen through smoke. Purple patches of cloud were detached by a strong light breeze and sent scurrying across the sky.
Monday, August 14th 1916
About 3am it rained and I had perforce to take my hip pillow and put it across the entrance to keep out wet. During the day we did flapper signalling. The evening being wet I wrote Hilda a little and tried to sketch. The rain ceasing I went to the wood and wrote dearly (it is very much finer now as I write). Had a splendid conversation with Skelton on chemistry and kindred matters.
Tuesday, August 15th 1916
On parade at 7.30. Go across to chateau grounds and put down 1 x signs for aeroplane signals. At 9.30am aeroplanes came over and signalled a.k.a. with Klaxon horn and immediately dropped a red yellow and black streamer with attached pocket containing note and messages. I caught one of these.
In afternoon it rained torrents so I wrote home. After tea I went to St Leger with Skelton. Coming back we saw some comic boxing arranged by “Smithy.”
Wednesday, August 16th 1916
Packing up QMS stores all morning. Finished letter home and posted. Nothing on in the afternoon so Skelton and I have a pleasant walk to Pas 5 kilos away. Pas is in another dale and nice quiet village.
Saw about 200 German prisoners under escort. Queer shaped heads they had, some were not bad in physique but others only moderate. Got a nice tea of tomatoes grapes biscuits bread butter and coffee.
Walked slowly back, talking most enjoyably the while. I went out to the ridge on return and wrote this diary. Shall be sorry to leave here. The hillsides are dotted with haystacks which look like ladies in crinolines from a distance.
Thursday, August 17th 1916
Up at 4.30am pack up tent get breakfast and go with the ration wagon for the rations. 8.30 the column started off. I got on a cable cart for a good part of the journey. We went through the same hilly picturesque country and the villages of Sarton, Tharienx, Terramesmil to Beauval our destination.
I wonder if Beauval is a contraction of Beautiful Valley. It should be for it is a beautiful valley. Went round the village which has a glorious church. I got several letters from home and Hilda. After all we are not to move tomorrow. Where are we going?
Friday, August 18th 1916
Parade 9am. Told to unload lorry. Afternoon do nothing. Pay at 6pm I climbed the hill out of Beauval and turned to the right by a road circling the town on the hilltop. Met a French boy and chatted with him. Walked back to his farm, had supper nearby and again took the road till I came to a prominent mound and from this I would see the church tower and spire rising about the hilltop and trees, also the mausoleum of Charles Saint, a grand domed building in white marble.
More than anything did the scene remind me of Salisbury and especially of that night when Hilda and I walked to the hill overlooking SA. What a grand and glorious aspect can I now see. In the gathering mist I can just discern the wide plains for many many miles around. Oh it is glorious. It is superbly fine. There is that kind of a silence one can almost hear. I do not wonder a Frenchman loves France.
Saturday, August 19th 1916
I did not sleep much, there being the usually rowdiness after pay. Last night after coming into the town I saw a huge crowd of soldiers on the church steps and noticed they were watching an AJC Cinema. I stayed till 10pm. This morning it rained hard, I was detailed for the lorry.
Had a row with Rimmington over rations. The lorry proceeded through the usual fine country for about 30 miles to Treaux where we set up an office in a beautiful park. The river Ancre flowing through. Shally and I fix a bivouac. After tea we all went for a stroll to Ribemont to the canteen. 9.30pm we returned to our hut which unfortunately I set fire to so we had to go into Bearn’s hut for the night. It was very cold there.
Sunday, August 20th 1916
During this morning which I did not know was Sunday I fitted up a new bivouac, with double bed and wooden floor. The main body arrived at noon. I went in the office at 1pm till 5pm. Heard we are going to Fricourt and that Divisions hereabout have been much cut.
Last news being that we lost 3 divisions taking Thiepval Ridge, an immensely strong position however. After tea I found a woodland bath. Through cornfields and by the side of the Ancre to Ribemont. Coming back I sat by the riverside and wrote this diary. A possibility of us moving tomorrow. Hope not, we get plenty of it and not much stay in one place.
Monday, August 21st 1916
On duty in office until dinnertime. When move with party in lorry to the next place. We go through Albert, a place which has been shelled. The figure on the church tower has been struck and made to hang sideways over the thoroughfare. We stay at forked tree I am on duty all night on registers.
Tuesday, August 22nd 1916
We have a rough night on duty. I get two or three hours down. Find 2 Francs on the floor.
Wednesday, August 23rd 1916
Shally gets a fine bivouac on the hilltop for we two for the 24 Div opr. I am on duty as register keeper taking over from the 24th. Everything in a state of chaos. Cannot make any headway. In afternoon we go to the hut and put things there.
During the evening I bath myself and change. Make supper and go on at 9pm. A glorious view over to the lines. Can see Mametz Wood. The trees standing up like sticks devoid of leaves devastated by fire of artillery.
Thursday, August 24th 1916
Rotten night last night on register. Off at 8am. I go to the hut. Shally has to go to the crater with Sgt Abbott. Bearn comes in the hut with me.
A wounded Bantam of HLI. Slight in hand. We take him in let him wash and give him a kip and supper.
Saturday, August 26th 1916
This diary entered late (31st) so I forgot any items. Late at night I have diarrhoea but take chloradyne which does me good.
Sunday, August 27th 1916
On at 8am. An awfully busy morning. Not feeling well at all. I went to the hut and laid down. I asked Bearn to report me sick. Later 10pm Bentley said I had to go to the MO at once so I had an awful job wandering across the trenches and muddy ground. He tells me I am run down which I really do feel.
The guns firing heavily all night.
Monday, August 28th 1916
Go to the M.O. again he takes my pulse and gives me the day off. I go and lie down. Very many cases of diarrhoea and dysentery, some cases going to England. Bearn tells me of the sights in Trones Wood which are awful. I went wandering round the trenches looking for candle grease to burn.
Tuesday, August 29th 1916
Go to MO gives me medicine and duty. I go and lie down until dinner. Eat the tongue. Bentley comes to tell me to go on at 2pm. Hear Taverner killed by shell and Peart wounded. Nothing to be found of Taverner. Peart lost a foot.
Germans send a weak bombing party over but they quickly retire on our opening fire. Several shells come over during night. We lose one or two balloons. Rumania declares war against Germany, also on Austria.
Wednesday, August 30th 1916
On at 8am. Promises very dull. Just before going off at 2pm it rained torrents. Syd let me share his cape up the hill but still I was wet. Made tea and got down but after an hour went to tea. After tea made a paraffin fire till 9pm.
On at 9pm it fined up somewhat but still very muddy and damp. Operations are off owing to it all. Chatting till some of the boys get down.
Hear Lt. Maltby died from wounds, Darlington Smith wounded. Henderson blown from limber by shell but unhurt. His mules ran away.
Bearn goes to take place of Peart of 59th. Ha Shally shelled out of his funk hole.
Thursday, August 31st 1916
Sorry to hear poor old Peart died of his wounds yesterday.
Saturday, September 2nd 1916
Off at 8am. Sleep till 2.30 then brought on duty.
Relieved at 4pm. Pack up and go to 60 Brigade at Breck Alley Carnoy. Find a dugout but couldn’t sleep till 2am. 61 come in from line, but have to go out to the line at 8am to Bernafay Wood.
Sunday, September 3rd 1916
Golding goes on duty at 11am and carries on. Bombardment commences and later the 59 and 5 Div go over and gain most of objectives. Hear we are at Guillemont and Ginchy but later lose latter place. At 5pm we are told to proceed to Bernafay Wood to reinforce at once.
One battalion wiped out, Munsters and Leinsters reinforce. Many wounded and prisoners straggle back down roads. A wild stormy night as we pass. Enemy barraging road to left. Many dead stenching mules and horses in road.
Reach Bernafay at 8.30pm and go into deep German trench. Arrive at the dugout, a very deep one, 30 feet, but small. No accommodation for sleeping.
Monday, September 4th 1916
The whole of Guillemont taken and then held by our boys. Heavy firing all day. Enemy counter attack drove us out of Ginchy but in the evening after a tremendous bombardment we took Ginchy. Enemy used all kinds of shells. One of the orderlies killed taking messages to front line. No sleep possible.
When off duty the only thing to do was to sit on the stairs steps and in that position try to sleep. In this whole period we got no more than 6 hours sleep. Poor Carter of Division was killed by accident, being killed by one of our own guns of which he got in front of.
Tuesday, September 5th 1916
Very little sleep again. I got 2 hours in the damp floor of the dugout without any covering whatever. All the others too were lying about similarly. Last night with three others we tried to sleep in the shelter on the wood side but Fritz shelled heavily killing 2 mules and several drivers not 10 yards away. I was for leaving the dugout and diving to the office but the others thought the attendant dangers greater than the remaining. But a shell hit a tree just behind us and exploded, covering the ground around with phosphorescence and lighting our dugout and faces with a greenish light. That decided us so we cleared.
Next morning I looked and saw the tree had literally saved us. I did not think we were coming unscathed out of that night.
Wednesday, September 6th 1916
Up at 6am and pack. Turning out a finer morning and hot. Breakfast, but cannot get away to time as Fritz starts bombarding heavily. Watch the great bursts over the batteries and finally go below, as things get rather warm. A shell hit a bomb store and made a great explosion, but no damage done.
At 11am we start off heavily laden and stumble along. We get away quite safely however and land at Carnoy at tea time. Am wanted to go to Fork Tree to Division but get off it as am quite fagged out with exertion and want of sleep.
Thursday, September 7th 1916
Quiet day here until 2.30pm when we leave Carnoy for a good 3 hours march. It is awfully hard work marching with full kit and we are fit to drop on arrival at Luton Town, a rural spot in the dales where are many cavalry. Get quite a decent kip in a wooden hut for the night. Sleep well after recent experiences.
Friday, September 8th 1916
Set out from Luton Town with our full packs again. Very hot and tired, we have several rests but are quite done up in arrival at Corbie. We arrive just as the band is playing. It seems a nice little town, full of troops. There is a very fine large Church here. Inside there is a piece of “Vern Croix.”
Saturday, September 9th 1916
A fine hot morning so Owen and I went down to the riverside and washed and talked and then returned to the digs. After tea we stroll around and stop to talk to some ladies in a house and to whom we give some grapes.
Sunday, September 10th 1916
Walk down to the Church Service. Brigade there, all that was left of them that is for they suffered heavily in the recent fighting. After service the General congratulated the troops on their devoted work. They gained glory he said in the capture of Guillemont a task not done by several Divisions who previously tried. Today, he said it will be a red letter day. Turning to the Signals he said “You have done extraordinarily well and have worked hard.”
Rested in the afternoon, but in the evening went to R.C. Church with Burns.
Monday, September 11th 1916
Up at 6am and after breakfast the section marches away in a hot sun, along the road where the German Prisoners are working. I talk to Burns on many matter war, religion and physical culture etc. We have several halts, but after a round halt we are made to walk quicker, which tires us.
We arrive at Meaulte about 2.30pm, fagged out. After tea go for a walk around. Rimmington joins me here. In bed I have a long talk with D.B. on Roman Catholicism and devotion. Very intensive. He is not very bigoted either – has some very sensible remarks on penance and confession.
Get a letter from Hilda and Mother, Mother again ill and has to undergo operation on Wednesday.
Tuesday, September 12th 1916
This morning had a chat with Owen Burns on physical culture. He quite sets me off with the intention of taking it up on return to the civil life again. After dinner go on duty. Walk around the village in the evening chatting on the usual topics with Burns.
Go into the Church and look round. Back to billet and bed where I chat with Owen B on spiritualism and Religion and other interesting subjects. The Irish lad from Jarrow is very interesting and intelligent and kindly and affectionate.
Wednesday, September 13th 1916
Still at Meaulte though it cannot be long before they move us up to the front. Nothing to write of except duty and a little pleasure spent in the usual way.
Thursday, September 14th 1916
Hear we are to move tomorrow along with the 61st Brigade, the latter at first into the line. Big things evidently coming off. They seem to require the 20 Division. They give us little rest, what with marching and duty.
We are all looking forward eagerly to a period of rest after this affair. It is badly needed by our boys and indeed all of us. Sleep is a precious and rare thing. Got a parcel and two letters from Hilda. Dear old girl.
Friday, September 15th 1916
Look round Meaulte finally in the morning. After dinner we again set off heavily laden in the hot sun to our first objective. Reach there quite done up. Pass great concentration of troops on the way.
Saturday, September 16th 1916
We left the Citadel after dinner and carried our full pack which nearly made me collapse. Really it is most inhuman work on little sleep and food. Pass through Minder Post and German prisoners and go right through Carnoy finally stopping by the hillside where 61st Brigade were. They go up to Trones Wood in reserve.
I am sat by a telegraph pole, working an instrument till 5pm. After a good tea Burn and I look around and find a comfy dugout and make a fire. Later it starts raining so we retire, though we expect being sent up any moment. Poor Burn has to go out during the night. 61st have been quickly into the fight. The armoured cars did great damage I hear.
Sunday, September 17th 1916
61, badly cut up in attack. Sunday and I didn’t even know it! We were awakened about 3.30am and told to get out, kit on. It was raining fitfully as we slipped and stumbled along the hillside through Bricketerie and past Bernafay Wood and through Trones Wood. The litter of battle was almost indescribable.
Finally we settles near a reserve trench, cold and hungry. Set about looking for somewhere to sleep and erected a structure with Burns help. The whole wide area is churned up soil of crater and hillock.
Some very gruesome sights of dead men fearfully injured and half buried. We are ordered to move up to the line in support of 61st at Guillemont. More gruesome sights en route. Of Guillemont there is no trace. It is only a name, one with the desolation around. On duty.
Monday, September 18th 1916
Midnight-8am I sleep. Very tired indeed. On again t 8am. Rather busy day. Very wet and fearfully muddy. Everything a mass of desolation and a sea of mud for miles around. Trenches feet in water.
The boys fighting hard everywhere and pushing the Germans back with terrific fighting and artillery work.
Our losses are heavy. Many German prisoners coming in. They show a great disposition to surrender.
Off at 4pm. The mud is hatefully sticky – the dugout very wet and muddy. Chat with Burns and a Stockton boy. Interesting chat on girls and other interesting subjects.
Tuesday, September 19th 1916
Midnight-8am. Passed rather quickly and well. Recovering from my fatigue alright. Spend the day in bed and actually have a good needed shave and wash. Felt much better for it. On again at 4pm.
I’ve been reading “Many Cargoes” by Jacobs and enjoyed it. Just before I went off Fritz started shelling around and dropped one above us. I was going out of the trench I splashed about to the dugout which I couldn’t find. Slept very well.
Wednesday, September 20th 1916
My birthday. Fritz celebrated it for me by shelling all around and making us feel uncomfortable. I took out newspaper cuttings by Miss Stead and Sir O Lodge. Hear we are moving today. Shall be truly thankful. I suppose today at home they will be thinking of me, much as I am of them. Off at 4pm.
Spend evening in dugout, talking and waiting for relief. Damp, cold and hungry. Fall asleep a little while. Later wakened at 3am. Fine but a wilderness of mud around. The air thick with gas from shells which make our eyes stream. All the slow laborious struggle in the dark and mud and shell holes to Trones and Bernafay was a test of endurance and we were fit to drop.
As we got to the corner of Bernafay Montauban Fritz shelled the road. Unshaven damp cold hungry we crawled to Citadel and arrived there 8am.
Thursday, September 21st 1916
Told on arrival we must give a relief at Citadel Exchange. Rimmington and I object with result we are excused. Spend morning in bed, in the afternoon clean ourselves and at night we all crowd, 15 or 16 in the tent. Sleep awfully cold.
In letter from home hear Willie is full Lieutenant in the India Marines. Six pounds per week and all found also ration money. He is in the RE’s and will go to Mesopotamia both on land and sea service.
Friday, September 22nd 1916
This morning very fine. I got a letter and two birthday cards from Hilda, very nice ones too. She is sending a parcel, mother has undergone another operation which was successful but she is weak.
Pack up and at 11.30am set off for Ville sur Corbie. A weary fagging walk. As usual Brace loses us and takes us a long way round. We nearly done up arriving at 3pm. Hunter and I go out for coffee and get into a row with Brace.
Not on duty today. Sleep with old Burn and chat with him. Take it easy in morning and lie down in afternoon.
Saturday, September 23rd 1916
In the evening of today I went out with Keohane and Burns. We called at the RC Church and spent half an hour in devotion inside. The quiet holy atmosphere was soothing to me and I worshipped thankfully and in gratitude for a safe return, not forgetting the home folk – on return find Rimmington and I are relieved. Rimmington had gone but I meant to stay the night and return in morning. Sleep with Bobby and chat with him sorry I had to leave him he is such a good sort.
Sunday, September 24th 1916
Up early, dress shave and breakfast. Get my kit on and walk the two kilos to Treux. Meet Shally, go draw stores and am detained loading QM stores. Dinner 11.30 then we walk to Div baths under a hot sun.
On duty at 5pm. Sleeping with Shally again. Today had a letter from Hilda also papers.
Monday, September 25th 1916
First I am told to stay rear party with Shally, then although I should have remained I am told to go forward. Pack up again and travel with the Company in column to the Citadel. Feeling very tired and fed up with marching.
Put in hut. Get down to sleep early but very cold. A party sent off by lorry to Briqueterie. Hear we got Combles and many prisoners.
Tuesday, September 26th 1916
Early this morning an Irish Brigade marched through playing pipes and shouting their war cry. Up early and march with the column to Bronfay Farm. Just get a decent place there, am told off for fatigues and again told to pack up for the Briqueterie as a relief. Get there by lorry and have to unload and so on duty. On the Corps wire with any amount of work and working badly. Ten pm when relieved, very tired.
Wednesday, September 27th 1916
No sleep as the heavies behind us are firing hard all night keeping us awake. Go in to the office till 10am when we close down and pack up, more heavy carrying to do. A party sets off to walk to Bronfay Farm.
Fine morning, Fritz shelling Bernafay and the corner. See two great columns of light smoke rising, hear they are two ammunition dumps of Fritz we exploded.
Arrived at Bronfay but no lorry to take us back. Farleigh and I get a bike but mine had no brake, Farleigh and I nearly knocked over by French car. So we walked to Forked Tree getting there near sunset, fed up and tired out. Get some needed tea. Had no hot meal for three days.
Thursday, September 28th 1916
Last night we made a tent of wagons and covered and secured a place for Shally and self. Slept well but up at 6am and pack up. Raining hard I get two letters from Hilda just before we set off. The lorry went a roundabout way and it was afternoon before we got to Div HQ in Bernafay Wood.
Get a decent corrugated iron dugout and in a deserted dugout got a trestle bed. Have to help unload. On duty all night I am told but arriving there at 9pm no wire for me so I get a night’s broken sleep the guns were shelling.
Note as we came round Bernafay X roads Fritz put a shell or two over only just after we got round. Rather fortunately.
Friday, September 29th 1916
Walk round the wood a bit of way before duty at 2pm. On at 2pm and very busy. I constructed a candle stove from a German smoke helmet and used some Birthday chocolate as cocoa. Another rather restless night owing to shelling.
Enemy aeroplane came over and bombed Carnoy, killing many horses. As I lay in bed I thought of home and Hilda and many serious and happy things.
Saturday, September 30th 1916
My night on all night. I got first turn down but it was awfully cold and I did not sleep well at all. Up at 3am whilst the boys get down I finish writing my letters home.
Sunday, October 1st 1916
This afternoon I and 3 others, Condie, Benning and Domville stroll through the woods, but saw no souvenirs to speak of. The wood has been cleared of the traces of the fight. Overhead there was an aeroplane fight whilst around us all our guns were booming.
Monday, October 2nd 1916
Hear today we brought down another Zepp on London. Better than ever!
Our artillery this afternoon commenced a heavy bombardment. Could see a lot of Fritz shell bursting at the side of the salient. Very busy night up till 9am.
Tuesday, October 3rd 1916
On at 8am. Same routine. Car goes into Mericourt to fetch us isolated beings stores. Sit writing and talking to the new Doncaster boy who has been having a hard day laying lines near Flers.
Fritz shelling the crossroads hard. Hear he has caused some casualties. So long as he doesn’t send any here we may remain calm. Yesterday our artillery flattened over Le Sars and Le Transloy absolutely apparently we’re about to try for Bapaume-Peronne road.
Wednesday, October 4th 1916
The Doncaster boy departs for an advanced station as linesman, but as Brammer is coming from YT I have no doubt the place will soon be taken up. Quiet evening before going on, sewed buttons on and rested. Busy till 1.30am my turn down at 5am. So I go to hut and sleep very well on the floor till 7am.
Thursday, October 5th 1916
Up at 7 for breakfast but get down again 9-12pm. Everything still normal and quiet though anytime we are expecting to have a try for Fritz before we go back. Rumour says we go to another front. I should like to believe this for this is awful trying work and conditions.
Friday, October 6th 1916
Busy morning as usual with artillery work etc. Brammer came from YT and is now digging in with Carlton Self and Sykes. Nothing much to report anyway. Received a few provisions from Maricourt by car.
Brammer chatted with me about his girl and Sheffield and also the girl at Hull who he knew (lived at Marfleet). I soon dropped off to sleep as did he being tired. Yet I slept rather restlessly.
Saturday, October 7th 1916
Our boys were congratulated by Div, Commander took three hundred prisoners. On at 8am. Not quite so busy. Heavily bombarding Fritz prior to going over. Our boys go (20th) over and take all objectives. The other Divisions do not do so well. Ox and Bucks lost heavily as also did the Yorks especially in officers.
Sykes was on observation post work with Captain Gilbey and another Officer. The other Officer went out and found his cousin had been killed in the advance. I have to stay on till 4pm at this end of the post.
In the evening Fritz shelled us though he was evidently trying for the Montauban-Carnoy road which he traversed end to end. One landed by our cookhouse and Condie’s dugout where the German bombs are.
Another in the road no damage luckily by the former. The latter killed mules and drivers so I hear. Brammer and I have lobster supper and cocoa and rum before going on at 9pm. Letter from Hilda.
Sunday, October 8th 1916
I get down at midnight but do not sleep. Up at 4am, we are heavily bombarding enemy, who through the night had retaken part of his lost trenches. I could not sleep any better late in the day either and went on at 2pm fagged out. From then till 9pm the room was packed out with 6 Div me 56th and ours which made our constant work harder still.
I had a good little parcel from Hilda so had the choc cake, cream and cocoa for supper, Brammer and Sykes partaking. In bed have a smoke.
Monday, October 9th 1916
Awakened at 6am and told to go with party at 7am, but what with breakfast and packing up, this was a tall order. Therefore we did not get off but helped to pack the dynamo till Sgt Bentley was ready, then we went across country and down Carnoy valley through much mud to Minder Post.
Arrived then found no transport, so decided to walk to Treaux. However we met a lorry and got taken as far as Fricourt and then boarded another. With us was a Derby man fagged out, he only being in France three weeks and had been over the top.
He was optimistic about our chance, said German only had a shallow trench. At Meaulte we got off and walked to Treaux. On duty on register at 9pm.
Tuesday, October 10th 1916
With chaps, I get down at midnight but very cold indeed. Up at 4am and at 8am relieved. No sleep in morning so I got up at noon and had an afternoon stroll along the river Ancre bank to the canteen at Ribemont and sauntered back. Had prawns for tea, then Shally and I walked down Buire to the little cinema on the hillside.
Enjoyed a grand little affair all the boys being very jolly. It was a beautiful moonlight night and was very captivating. Arriving back found a lot of the boys “merry” especially Farleigh. In order that two yr. men can wear long service stripe.
Wednesday, October 11th 1916
Took a walk down the riverbank and sat against a tree and wrote to Hilda. I had received a nice letter from her two days ago. Very loving as usual. How happy we should be if I were at home. She also sent me a nice parcel.
Pay at 2pm. I got another letter from Hilda this afternoon. She says Willie has gone to India and has signed on for 5 years. I am sure he is not happy at home.
Hear we are to be addressed by Corps Command this week (Earl of Cavan) for our great deeds and on our leaving his Corps. What honour!
Rumour has it that we are leaving this Somme front and are going to Bethune. I don’t half hope so. Am longing for decent opportunities and rest. Shally gone to Brigade. On at 5pm tonight.
Thursday, October 12th 1916
I slept very well and in the morning went to the Div baths at Ville, came back and did a bit of washing (of a sort). Also wrote this diary.
Heard this morning that tomorrow 72 ours bombardment of Bapaume and Peronne by British and French respectively takes place. Hope we have luck but at the same time so long as we remain at Treaux we are liable to be sent up there again.
Friday, October 13th 1916
Quiet morning in the office off at 1pm. (Went to the canteen). I went for a walk in the country along by the Ancre bank and had a little snooze. Returning after tea I went to Buire to the cinema and returning laid down till near 9pm.
I got down with Darkie and slept till 4am, then up and made cocoa for self and the boys. After breakfast I went along the bank again but it was cold and windy and overcast. Laid by a tree behind a lot of hay. In the afternoon we had to clean the billet out. Went again to the cinema after tea and then return and to bed.
Saturday, October 14th 1916
Off all this day till 5pm. I forget what I did do this day as I am writing this diary nearly a week after in the cemetery at Vignacourt. However it was the eve of our move to Corbie which took place next day Sunday.
Sunday, October 15th 1916
Left Treaux with the column and in company with Sykes who sat on the same cable cart as I did. Very cold windy morning. We passed a lot of prisoners on the way along arriving about 2pm. Sykes and I got places next one another in the long low ceilinged billet. We drew blankets today, a much needed luxury. After tea walk round the town and listen to the band a while.
Monday, October 16th 1916
Walked round the town in the morning and went into the old Church, admiring the stained windows and other items. The heraldic devices on the windows gave me the idea to adopt one for myself and to incorporate it in my proposed room.
I felt impelled to be a little devout though it seems a vague sort of a want, without direction. On duty at 1pm, had an easy afternoon. Sgt Bullock leaves us for England another one of many changes in this ever changing company of ours.
Had a short walk round but was soon in and in bed reading the “White Company” and chatting to Sykes. I intended writing as I had received a nice letter from Hilda, but Sykes did not want to write and he was going to enclose in mine.
Tuesday, October 17th 1916
I do not do the morning shift as Gussy wanted to, in order to get out of medical inspection so I took a stroll along the waters of the Corbie canal and noted the great tall trees and many pools bordering its waters.
After dinner I laid down a while and after tea Sykes and I went into the square to hear the band and also we walked the canal bank and discussed marriage and ideal love as affected by second marriage is.
I was on at 9pm and from the start had a very rough time which continued through the night.
Wednesday, October 18th 1916
Had an awfully worrying night and practically no rest. Operation orders came in at 1am. I lay in bed most of the day but at tea got up and cleaned and went to near the band with Sykes. We afterwards walked down by the silent canal in the dark and talked about our girls and Blighty.
I advised him on matters “de la coeur.” I think he intends writing his girl to be engaged, a thing which she apparently wants. I also invited them both to Hull “après le guerre.” Home and to bed.
Thursday, October 19th 1916
On very early, raining very hard, travel with the cable carts from Corbie round Amnem through Allouville and to Vignacourt arriving there 6pm having had little to eat and nothing to drink. Wander round the town with the Captain and Town Major finding billet for us.
Also we had a struggle finding the cookhouse. Finally got tea and kipped down with Thompson, my kit not having arrived. All night it was intensely cold so that it was little sleep we got. Thompson had the toothache too.
Friday, October 20th 1916
After a very restless cold night got up and shaved and breakfasted. I took out “The White Company” by Conan Doyle and walked past to the village outskirts. Seeing the cemetery and thinking it promised as much quietness as anywhere, I walked around it noticing the very fancy names of French words.
What a loving sunny and glorious morning and my heart was full of musing of the dead and tokens of love around me. I seated myself on a tomb and read my book and as I read I could hear the heavy bombardment miles away. These words at the end of the book seem strangely prophetic appropriate to the present.
“The sky may darken the clouds may gather and again the day may come when Britain may have sore need of her children on whatever shore the sea may be found. Shall they not muster at her call.” That time has come and the place again France and the boys, the good of boys and England have not been found wasting.
Saturday, October 21st 1916
A most beautiful morning, cold calm and sunny. The column moved away, I marching blithely as I looked around at the smiling countryside. The road took us down an avenue of trees and was strewn with the golden brown of the fallen leaves. To the right the fields gently sloped till they met the plantation, that clothed the ridges.
About 11.30am we arrived at Belloy sur Somme and after a little difficulty got settled. Strolled around in the afternoon and sat on a grassy bank in the sun. I like the prospects very much. After tea Sykes and I walk to the next village and back. I was on duty at 9pm and had a rough night.
Sunday, October 22nd 1916
I got down at 2am but was up at 6am. As it was Sunday, Sykes and I decided to go to Church, we did so and heard a good address and some hymns which we ourselves chose. After this Sykes and I returned to our conversations and walk. I remember we talked of Ted Carrick and his love affair. I put my bed down with Grimsey this night and slept very well indeed. Had letters from Hilda and wrote her one but only posted on following Wednesday.
Monday, October 23rd 1916
Not being on until 5pm I went for a stroll to a near field and nestled myself into a haystack and there wrote Hilda and mother. I had it in my mind to find the Somme river so after dinner I strolled across the village and found a road to the banks.
The river is fairly wide and fringed by deep pools prolific of reeds and rushes. On either bank lies the low hills with frequent villages visible mostly by the Church towers. I looked around and then sat by the pool and read my home paper which I always enjoy. Returned at tea time and went on duty at 5pm.
Tuesday, October 24th 1916
A very wet morning indeed dark and damp misty conditions promising rain. Still thinking it better to be out I went to the woods I explored yesterday and finally found an empty shed where I sat and read Marcus Aurelius I had borrowed this from Rim. Now I sit and write my diary up.
What do I think of MA’s writings and philosophy? I scarce know as yet. I must weight it up. His fiery outburst of man and universe is materialistic yet both are intelligent. All is flux therefore, all in time is resolved to the original fiery ether.
I may be able to agree that everything is in the last resort fine ether materialistic if you will, as Hyslop seems to think, and get that portion of it we call ourselves may be or may attain stability, hence we could be immortal with the stoics would not admit.
Wednesday, October 25th 1916
Slept in the morning and in the afternoon walked by the Somme. Sykes and I had a very short walk after tea but were too fagged out to go far so we returned and lay down. I wrote a letter to Miss Stead re her article in the weekly dispatch.
I read a little of Marcus Aurelius. There seems to me to be much that would commend itself to one’s reason in his writing. Yet I cannot but think the lesser ideals of Christianity would have made his belief more logical. I like his definition of true prayer, to pray that one may have a condition of soul that would make petitions almost unnecessary.
Also one should not expect gratitude for good actions rendered that being in the nature of an usury. The story’s philosophy is a lofty and high one and if one could keep his principles to hand and ready for occasion one might be much better always. Yet there is one golden rule that would affect this with the carrying of many precepts and it is the Christian golden rule. I myself fail pitily here however.
Thursday, October 26th 1916
I had a very rough morning in the office and was glad to get away from it. Despite the wet I took a walk to the woods and enjoyed the greenery the strong sunshine which at times broke through into the vale and illuminated a brilliant rainbow. I and two other boys collected some apples. After tea Sykes and I went to Yzeux, on nice little walk of about 2 kilos.
There was some disturbance with McKnight and that other curse of money gambling. I read my good old Hull Times. There was some good things in the Church column, one being on religion as a passion, a fusion of intellect morality and aestheticism.
That is quite true also there was an item on socialism and religious teaching. If socialism does really truly stand for those things of negation then I shall think Dr Martineau was more than right in his opinion of regeneration, being affected from within rather than on the lines of socialites Sunday Schools.
Marcus Aurelius had more true knowledge on this subject than some of our moderns.
Friday, October 27th 1916
This morning windy, dull and intermittent rain. I lay down a while and read the Hull times, then arose and walk to Yzeux to the Church. Here at this moment I am writing my diary in its saintly quietness and charm, above and in front of me is a ceiling of blue and gold. Like my room is to be.
As I came along the winding road, strewn with the fallen and falling leaves of autumn I look to my left. The ground fell away gently through field and meadow till in the distance it reached the low marshy ground of the river. Steely blue shimmered the pools studded with the dark green islands of rush and on the farther side the noble stately little hills gradually rose to complete a picture of arresting beauty.
No wonder one’s mind is religiously biased if natural beauty is aesthetic, a quality common to religion, as has been said. I lay down in the after and went on in the evening. I had to stay two hours after time as Gussy and party were drunk. Sorry to hear Wellsford has been killed.
Saturday, October 28th 1916
This morning I sat in and wrote what appears at the end of the diary under this date. I intend writing it to mother. Self expression though difficult is a good thing for the mind I find a deep pleasure in it that contrasts with the distaste of the experience when I have to perform some of the “practical” things of this life.
Went out and down to the woods again and revelled in the self expression of the Divine around me. I turned aside to a path climbing gently upwards, slowly I walked the narrow beaten track running through the myriad spots of green and brown leaf covering the ground.
On either side of me were the slender and tall trunks still dressed in vivid green, their upper branches interlaced in a verdant canopy. Little patches of moss clung to the mounds on base of trees and in many a place groups of fungi, dark brown or lemon and orange lifted their tiny domes and running along the ground and aspiring to heaven ever the tendrils and leaf of Ivy.
The sunlight danced in many a glittering patch along the way or illuminated the sea of foliage on either side this side of nature.
Sunday, October 29th 1916
Wrote home and Hilda in morning. Had a little rest in the afternoon. Bill and I went to the C of E service and after a walk. On duty at 9pm my orderly rather troublesome, especially Crawford, I cannot really like him with his low moralities and his nasty temper.
Yet should my philosophy make me to be practically indifferent and not provoked? Had a little sleep from 1am-6am. Had a letter from Hilda who seems a little depressed having received no letter.
Monday, October 30th 1916
After night duty, went to Amiens with Bill. Seems a grand place, typically continental. Rain commenced and spoilt things to a large extent. Went round the glorious Cathedral. As far as I have seen them in England our Cathedrals scarce seem to come up to Amiens. The stained glass impressed me. The rich carving, were sand bagged round for the Hun often visit Amiens, with us planes.
Walked round the shops and tasted the French pastry. Some of the French girls are very pretty in a different manner to English girls. Pale cheeks, dark hair black or brown eyes where our girls are mostly fair. We came home by 6.18pm. Platforms crowded with French soldiers going on wiring on leave.
Some few English. I bought a picture of Amiens Cathedral and sent it home. During the morning saw the ruins at Picquigny Germans advanced as far in 1870.
Tuesday, October 31st 1916
“Through art one’s souls will soar amongst the stars. Through one’s passions will descend to the nethermost hell.”
Nor is it any good to say that the admiration and love for the glorious figure and the dark or fair flowing locks, the blooming cheeks or flashing eye is also a love for art. It is true, but it is more and it is the more that requires to be guarded against. Never has the love of pure art melted down a man’s soul, or failed to give him a feeling of nobility and high dignity. The feeling of serenity and peace. But with the love of woman as art, there is also the overwhelming sense of sex and here lies the temptation and danger.
What can save a man?
Wednesday, November 1st 1916
Today we travelled from Belloy via La Chausee and Picquigny to Cavillon about 6 or 8 kilometres. It was quite a nice journey, the morning was sunny and the view back to Belloy and the roll of the hills beyond the Somme was inspiring. What struck me most was the effect of the white houses with their red capped roofs.
These looked charming from a distance. It is quite difficult for me to express my feeling, as I viewed the hedges and woods as we passed. I was quite happy and sang, some of these were hymn tunes of Moody and Sankey.
Arrived Cavillon a tiny village. The billet not bad but being all together I fear rowdiness and drunken scenes which I hate. I am told I am on night duty. I see no signs of shops anywhere.
Thursday, November 2nd 1916
Lay down till after dinner. Wishing to in the fresh air and amongst the delights of natural beauty I walked forth from the village to spot I had already earmarked as we came along yesterday. I entered the woods and sauntered here and there finally following where the sunshine was strongest.
I came to a part of ground strewn with sticks and found a log. Placing this against a tree I sat leaning back in the direct path of the sun’s rays. After a heavy downfall of rain it was now glorious. All around the trees were riot of browns and greens with one great tree to my left a mass of golden brown.
The sunlight played on its leaves, its branches and trunk a black tracery against its golden glory of foliage. Overhead the sky was now a clear calm blue. Into the sunny brown of the tree came two huge billowy and snow white clouds.
Everything was very peaceful now all was quiet save the distant caw of the rooks. To me the cawing of the rooks spells delight. Somehow I am reminded of Rolston Hall, Hornsea and the time Fred K and I were there. Just now I looked above the branches bore leaves of bright green whose outer edges were crisply tanned. Beyond ink blue.
Friday, November 3rd 1916
Played a little footer in the morning but as I am writing this on the first Monday, I have quite forgotten any other incidents. However, as I write now I am sat upon a pile of faggots in a half cleared place, silver beeches are all around me and the ground at my feet is all moss covered and there are also many tiny strawberry plants. The wind is quite fresh in the woods though I am sheltered a little here. The sun is putting up a great attempt to keep shining in spite of scurrying white clouds across a very deep blue sky.
Saturday, November 4th 1916
I had another walk round about and enjoyed the sun and the breeze and the wealth of trees around. I was on duty at 1pm and had a busy time until 5pm. After tea Bill and I walked to Oissy down the hill, where the village is situated on the banks of a tributary of the Somme.
We talked of his girl and a girl he had at Poperinghe. The latter he seemed much infatuated with. Also present he seems put out with his own girl and psychologically speaking he seems rather unstable at present. As he is young the fact is explained. Had a letter from Hilda who is at Tipton.
Sunday, November 5th 1916
Wrote H and home. A clear day for me. I walked out to the woods again and found new baths and clearings. Sat against the tree on some dried leaves and read the Hull Times. I noticed an article on the Holderness Farm Colony at Sunk Island for ex-soldiers.
This fired my imagination in conjunction with what I had read in “Land and Water” by T.W. Rolleston. The latter article dealt with the peopling of the land in a scientific manner. As regards myself I have always had a longing for the land.
Farmer appeals to me, office life certainly does not. There are drawbacks no doubt but what satisfaction there must be to live in nature, to work with her and to see the results of your labours. At the same time gaining health and strength.
Walked in the afternoon but stay in during the evening. A rough windy day. Boring at night. Added on later at end of diary for this day. As I walked through the narrow forest path I was struck by its beauty and the fact that so shortly I should have to leave it.
“No more the wind in the treetops or the soft pattering earthward of the falling leaf. No more the mossy bed showing up through a sea of yellow and brown leaf on the forest floor”.
Shortly after I came to a whitewashed house all covered in signatures in French and English. An example of French sentimentalism written on the wall. “Un coeur a vendre ou a louer s’adresser (heart for sale or rent contact) – Briquelors France and underneath some unknown had answered – Ma cher bien aimes je t’attend (my dear love I wait for you).
Monday, November 6th 1916
This morning some of the boys indulged in a little gymnastics just before I went out. I hear we have had some more gains on our front. The whole situation which I do not often refer to is summed up in “constant” pressure which is sometimes held a little by bad weather, but almost always results in gains of ground and prisoners to us:
The Rumanians situation is and has been gravest though. I think that is ameliorating now. Half a mile outside Cavillon Northwest and East, all these points of the compass I can see to the farthest skyline. The clouds are beginning to accumulate in the Northeast and are coming hurriedly to the brilliant sunlight of the West.
The smiling, mysterious landscape below me is frequently marked by the swift cloud shadows that traverse it. Oh the beauty of it all. Just where the darkening clouds are thickest is the arc of a rainbow reaching up till it meets the white cloud which borders the deep blue of immensity. Everywhere I look its beauty, subtle, powerful kindling to the emotions. Can I ever, ever tire of the panorama of nature’s bountifulness and never-ending spectacle of the sublime?
Hill and dale, in succession rise and fall till the limit of sight is reached and the brown and green mantle of earth is plotted out in tiny squares and small geometrical shapes representing in reality by forest and plantation. Now of darkest green untouched by a farmer’s influence for now the melody of brown and green bronze and yellow of beech and oak and many another species.
All these present the uttermost of their glory bathed in the powerful rays of the sun. A white ribbon of road runs the hill some distance away and climbs the ridge to disappear I know not where. Isolated trees raise slender and tall trunks with a bountiful spread of leaf and branch above.
The hayricks and straw stacks are miniature triangles and mounds the sheep and cattle grazing are but dots on the landscape.
Far in the northern shadows the white walls of some village stand revealed and immediately in front but yet a long way off is the spire of Crouy church rising slightly above a fir wood of deepest green. From the valley ascends a faint blue of curling smoke in exquisite contrast to its background of green.
Now the rainbow has grown more vivid, stay there are two, shading from orange to lemon thro green and blue to purple. The rain begins to fall but I think it is not much. A large flock of crows rise from the field with a mighty swirl and whir of wing and are doing bird wheels just overhead, cawing in anger, or curiosity at the strange being writing below.
What is it that is needed to complete this poor endeavour to describe the indescribable? Ah, what but the sighing winds of heaven, of which I am always conscious. Whence comest thou with the cool and bracing touch that fans my brow?
Now thy music rises now falls but never ending is thy voice with its message of mystery speaking to my soul. Oh nature! Every moment reveals some fresh beauty, from the bird of deepest black and purest white swaying with the branch in the breeze to the coloured grasses growing by my side.
The clouds are gathering quickly and threaten, the sheep are converging to a common centre which also presages a storm, now will the sheepdog have some respect from his un-wearying task of the last few hours. I rose from my reclining seat and walked homeward.
Willingly would I have stayed on to drink in the wonder of the scene, but if I stayed certainly I should be overtaken by the storm rapidly coming up. A few hundred yards and the storm burst. Hurriedly I ran for the wood and a spot I knew of. Dashing into the trees I ran down a leafy path till at its side I came to a small chalk pit hewed under a tree root.
Into this I safely ensconced myself and watched the storm. It is only a small pit about 15 feet circular with a rough chalky floor partly piled with leaves. There is a narrow chamber 5 feet high and 6 feet long dug into the pit and here complete shelter is obtainable. I can look up at the circular mouth of the pit and see the wood outside and the blue sky beyond, the rain and hail having now blown over.
Snarled and twisted roots cling round the rim of the pit covered with moss and creeping plants. The walls of the pit are white chalk but the rain soaking through the moss has produced a pretty and dainty effect. The lower half of chalk is stained and tinted with green of a delicate hue whilst the remainder is pure white a pleasing contrast.
Tuesday, November 7th 1916
Almost all this day I spent in bed resting. I did nothing in the evening but read and sort out my quotations. So I have very little to write about here.
Part of Nov 9th.
Written on the hillside, much as I would I cannot pen my feelings and emotions as I look around I feel as must a master musician operating upon an inadequate and faulty instrument. Nature is too great for me, here influences surge inwards and besiege my interpreting faculties. I know nature is immense, is beautiful divine, all that is perfect in form and in colouring, yet words as these fail totally to describe the complex subtle indefinable effect they have upon one. I am conscious that could I interpret these I should be a poet.
Never can I forget that the essence of this influence is religious and speaks the voice of eternity, the voice of other things than this world “beauty is the thrusting through of the eternal.”
Wednesday, November 8th 1916
An unsatisfactory day in as much as I did not get to Picquigny for my much needed bath and change, also the shopping I intend to do. I had got halfway there in a swinging walk when Sykes came after me on his bike.
After this I was hanging about all the day till nearly tea time when Charles Golding and I went in the ration wagon to Molliens-Vidame through some typical Picardy country. This village is a fairly large one and has a few shops. The billet is not bad at all. I meet some old faces too. I went on duty at 5pm till 9, the others are taking a class, I saw some of the boys who had been to Amiens, Venning was one.
He was somewhat intoxicated and had also been to a greenhouse. Backhouse too, the latter showed me some photos and I was tempted but for memories and faith.
Thursday, November 9th 1916
Up at 8am, shaved and washed then going through the village I came across the Church and finding the door open went inside. The interior was very fine and the atmosphere very restful and suggestive of spiritual healings. I knelt and prayed for I felt I was in need. Weak in morality, I prayed for strength and it came. Near to a fall, I was raised by the help of God’s presence. I sang some hymns, Church and Moody and Sankey of poignant and precious memories. My voice echoed musically and softly through the stillness of the aisles and arches. I was much benefited.
Out into the light and air I journeyed, through the town and by a hillside till just below a far tree plantation I sat down, read and then wrote these few notes. The sun shining brilliantly lights up the crooked wet road into a pathway of glistening silver and a group of refuse heaps far off assume the beauty of flashing gems as they reflect and throw back the shafts of piercing light. I could see the road we came in by yesterday with the twin towered tombs at the forked road.
The faint haze rising from the village. The idle windmill in the meadow. The stillness persuading all is only distant to the slightest degree by the faint whisperings of the breeze, most mysterious most divine. There is peace gentleness and soothing in its voice.
Friday, November 10th 1916
Part of November 9th about 7pm written in the moonlight sitting on a grassy hedge of a shallow precipice. What a fantasy! I walked a short way out of Molliens-Vidame by a rising road running midway between the gently slopes of a typical valley of Picardy.
About a mile out on the right hand side of the road was a square acre also of land cut out. This was under cultivated. The back portion was bounded by the excavated cliff.
Leaving the road I traversed the edge and finally sat on the brink. Here I fell to contemplation of the scene around me. Above, the queen of the night was sailing in a sea of her own illumination, broken only here and there by a few of the larger stars and a few cloud fragments.
All around the clear cut boundary of sky and earth were as the uneven ruin of a gigantic bowl. A series of ruddy flashes in the distant heaven bespoke the Kaiser. Birds of death being shelled at their evil work. Yet no sound reached me.
I was seated alone on the great wide spaces of God’s earth, the moon sending down her serene light. The soft cool breeze playing noiselessly and caressingly amongst the grasses waving in sympathy to her attention. Excepting the peerless Jupiter over foremost of all the heavenly lights as higher and higher he climbed to the zenith.
Cassiopeia’s Aquila and the Dyne with Vegas steely blue rays as her cornerstone also graced the celestine harmony. Quietness, absolute reigned yet anon the freshening breeze rose to articulation and broke in upon my ear. Once more I ask in subtle reverence induced of her voice. What meanest though? What message has though for my soul?
Surely my soul is meeting in communion with that beauty that thrustiest though the beauty that is the communication of the external spirit. Afterwards I returned along the white and winding road, every way side pool and water filled rut shining and glimmering in the moon’s rays.
Tuesday, November 14th 1916
On duty am told by Captain that Dad is seriously ill and that he is giving me a warrant to England. I walk in the afternoon and find Archie Condie had also got a warrant as his mother has died. We sleep together in the little room.
Shally comes and tells us his adventures at Picquigny and Amiens.
Wednesday, November 15th 1916
Up at 7am and we proceed to Hangest get a lift to the station. No train till 6pm we hang about all that time. I met some Hull boys in the East Yorks of the 17 Division. Very slow journey on the train to Longpre. Another long wait till we get a train to Abancourt where we arrive.
Thursday, November 16th 1916
In the early hours. Very hungry so we walk out to a near village but cannot get a thing to eat. Return and catch a train about 9.30am all day travelling but hung up by traffic in the afternoon. We take a walk to the engine and persuade the Tommies in the guards van to take us in with them.
We all, including driver and guard walk to a café and got rum and coffee. Archie and I got down and slept until we got to Havre about 1am.
Friday, November 17th 1916
Walked to the RTO and sent to rest camp. Called at bakeries and got a bite and supper there. Reached the dormitories and lay down in a shed with one blanket each. Very cold. No boats sailing today. Lived on YMCA and BECY canteens.
Saturday, November 18th 1916
Still no boat. Sent wires home.
Sunday, November 19th 1916
Ship did not sail until 9pm as we were delayed again. Had a very rough trip across. We three laid on the aft deck under two blankets but eventually the rain and seas wet our blankets through and we went below. Had much fun with Frank over the “sea dogs” but after parting both were sick.
Monday, November 20th 1916
Go to Southampton about 4am. The train left about 9am I arrived London a little after 11. Dined a la sausage and caught train at 1.30pm. Travelled with Frankie to Doncaster arrived Hull at 10 to 6.
Hilda met me and we took a Taxi to 83. Found Dad weak. Across to Sutton and tea. Very tired. To bed early. How lovely to be between clean white soft sheets and with one’s wife.
Tuesday, November 21st 1916
Called to see Dad and also the Dentist. About 2am a memorable morning for the reasons Hilda and I know.
Wednesday, November 22nd 1916
Sunday, November 26th 1916
Stayed in during the morning had a snooze with Dad in the room after dinner. Called at Carrick’s where with some jolly NF boys had a jolly time singing hymns. Ted, Hilda, Annis and I went to Chapel to hear the Rev. again.
Went to Carrick’s and had supper and later sent Annis Lamworth Hall. I lifted her to the path clear of the mound. She’s a jolly little girl.
Monday, November 27th 1916
Called at 83 in the afternoon and stayed tea. Hilda came and later we went to Mr and Mrs Pocock’s where they were entertaining us when the buzzers went and at once there was confusion. They left for the Town Hall and we happily caught a car to the terminus. The road was thronged with people.
Near Sutton we saw the two Zepps making for Hull caught in the rays of the searchlights. The Sutton gun fired and the Zepps turned around and disappeared. I stayed up with Ma and Hilda and listened to the dropping bomb at Cowden. Heard later two Zepps brought down, one in the sea off Durham, other ditto off Norfolk. Frank saw the former.
Tuesday, November 28th 1916
Stayed in in the morning. Went to 83 to say goodbye in afternoon. Found Dad and all family well. Mr Black called.
Hilda and I left and took the cars and walked to Sutton. Stayed in during the evening and later had a bath.
Wednesday, November 29th 1916
The last night’s sleep with my dear wife. I packed up and made a sad farewell to her dear weeping self. Very regretfully I went and with a sore heart Dad went with me to Hull. Elsie met me.
Travelled down with some other Hull boys returning to the front. Got to Southampton about 6pm.Here Frankie and I met Archie again.
Thursday, November 30th 1916
Berthed in the early hours and about 8am marched to the Rest Camp. Spent all day there with Frankie, Tommie and Archie in and about the YMCA. Blankets taken and we kipped down at 9pm.
Friday, December 1st 1916
Up at 3.30am and marched to station, we had a long cold wait until 9am for a train. Travelling all day talking, reading and occasionally snoozing.
Saturday, December 2nd 1916
Arrived here (Corbie) at 5.30am and proceeded to billets in the old place. Got down till 9am then shaved washed and went round with Shally. Slept in afternoon.
Sunday, December 3rd 1916
Church parade also to Church in the Evening. Stayed Communion.
Monday, December 4th 1916
Went to the Verey Lights at night.
Tuesday, December 5th 1916
Some old round of office and duty. Rather monotonous if safe. Longing for England home and my beauty. All the war news is bad or discouraging Rumania still retreating though her army practically intact.
Wednesday, December 6th 1916
Lloyd George crisis. Country tired of muddling through asks for firm hand to deal with Greek crisis and policy of “laissez-faire” generally. Heartily sick of it myself. If this continues what hopes can we have of the future of humanity.
400,000 lives gone in the Somme offensive to date. I am no pessimist of the unpatriotic type but the hardship is appalling.
Saturday, December 9th 1916
Nothing exciting. Went to the “Swordfishes” in the evening.
Sunday, December 10th 1916
Left Corbie for Treaux at noon. Sat on cable cart with Dick Crowther. Had a letter from Hilda today so far she is cheerful though she says nothing, not caring to busy me much. How I do hope we are not disappointed. Happy would not be a sufficient word to describe my state of mind should the news be good.
Got to Treaux at tea time no billets for us finally we were pushed into a drafty old barn. Slept uncomfortably all night, not feeling very well either.
Monday, December 11th 1916
After a morning of preparation we moved off the Briqueterie with the column. I got a seat on a cable cart but all the same it was a cold cheerless journey through miles of transport and multitudinous mud. Went through Ville “(Bond last night)” Meaulte and all the old places, the roads had been improved about 5 kilometres arrived, the mud was shocking almost to the knees and the scene around was desolation supreme.
Told off to the rear party but go in the morning. Sent to a fatigue party shifting the dynamo. Had supper and bed.
Tuesday, December 12th 1916
Up at 7am. A wild snow morning. Get a hurried breakfast harried by the presence of 3 officers. We were plumped into ankle deep mud, wet through and anything but cheerful. Altogether we were rushed about uncomfortably till we got to the rear HQ I was not on till 2pm so I tried making a bed. Here I met one of the O’Wommel’s who joined at Chatham the same date as ourselves.
They were shelling Minder Post last night and the Plateau. How the boys in the front line manage I cannot tell. It must be hellish.
Wednesday, December 13th 1916
Good news from Hilda. She is almost sure. How pleased I am. Fritz shelled again this afternoon and awful quagmire of a place.
Thursday, December 14th 1916
Still bad weather. Every afternoon Fritz shells but only the first shot near at all. Others lengthen the range.
Monday, December 18th 1916
Received 2 parcels one from Hilda, 1 from Mr and Mrs Smith. This afternoon Fritz sent one or two over very close to us but they were merely duds.
No letter from Hilda today. I am on tenterhooks waiting for further news from her. I’m in two minds what to think for there are indications that point either way.
Hear this evening that the French have now taken 12 thousand prisoners and 100 odd guns etc. Peace proposals of Germany turned down so far.
Tuesday, December 19th 1916
A great bombardment for hours by us. Fritz sends only one or two over. Unfortunately the weather is changing and our operations hampered. Hoping for good news from Hilda.
Wednesday, December 20th 1916
Had a ripping letter from Hilda, she is pleased and so am I. She seems absolutely sure now. I told her to go to Tipton and I think she will.
Thursday, December 21st 1916
On at 8am, which means 8.45. Very cold morning, no coal. Weather turns from frost to rain.
Boys moving in evening. On duty I discover that the 12 KRR orderly is a Hull boy. Goodrick by name, he is a big friend of Dickenson’s and possibly of Uncle Charles.
Saturday, December 23rd 1916
On at 9am. Had a fair sleep till 6.30am. Packed up.
Sunday, December 24th 1916
Walked to the Fricourt crossroads where the advance and rear met and went on the lorry to Corbie.
Monday, December 25th 1916
On parade with rifles this morning. Unable to book for the Very Lights this evening so we had a quiet night. I walked round the town and then return to the billet and bed.
Tuesday, December 26th 1916
Went to the Very Lights. Very good. An awful rowdy night in billet. The orderly officer had to be called to maintain order. No passes allowed to Amiens in consequence.
Wednesday, December 27th 1916
Quiet day. Went to the Tivoli in the evening. Very enjoyable after 8pm a rowdy night in the billet. Cator wanted to fight with Tommy Thompson. Poor Larry Lamb had a tough time trying to keep things quiet.
Thursday, December 28th 1916
Went for a grand walk with Shally, Simpkim, Thompson, McKnight and Davidson along the canal. It was a lovely fresh frosty morning. The Xmas dinner was great, beef pork ham Xmas pudding nuts apples oranges figs etc.
After this we washed up and then I wrote letters and diary. Germany will not treat with America. What does this mean? I expect this will ultimately mean war with America.
Friday, December 29th 1916
In all day except I went for my washing. In the evening whist drive was a great success. I scored 115 not very far from a winning score. I was a Gentleman. Shally took the prize though not rightly so.
After the drive there was a sing song, with the usual good things. Today the 9th Dec parcel arrived. The chicken and sausage were not good. Very much disturbance in the billet the drivers arguing about the capture of Sullemont.
Sunday, December 31st 1916
In orders for the 61 Brigade with Rimmington. We go for a lorry to Meaulte and I take on duty. As I was calling in the canteen in the afternoon I saw Albert Towers so decided to walk as far to see Capt Whitby’s grave.
I found one broken up cemetery and marched all around but could not find the grave. Spoke to the caretaker who took me to the keeper of the other cemetery but he had no record so I walked back.
Stayed in during the evening on at 9pm.
New Year’s Eve. There is a rumour of Austria asking for separate peace.
This was completed on Saturday, October 28th 1916 and recorded in the diary’s Memoranda section after the last entry (to be sent to Reginald’s mother)
Following very appropriate for Cleveland district of happy memories.
To be bought -:
Fellowship Song book
Published by J. Curwen & Sons Ltd 24 Berners Street W2
Beyond the east the sunrise; Beyond the west the sea
And East and West the Wander – Thirst that will not let me be
It works in me like madness to bid me say goodbye,
For the seas call, and the stars call, and oh!
The call of the sky!
I know not where the white road runs, nor what the blue hills are,
But a man can have the sun for friend, and for his guide, a star;
And there’s no end to voyaging when once the voice is heard,
For the rivers call, and the road calls, and oh!
The call of a bird!
Yonder the long horizon lies,
And there by night and day
The old ships draw to home again, the young ships sail away
And come I may, but go I must, and if men ask you why,
You may put the blame on the stars and the sun,
And the white road and the sky.
The Open Road
Tis the open road for me
Where I wonder fancy free
Away to the purple hills
Or down to the dancing sea
Or down to the dancing sea
Far over the moor it bends
Down the smiling vale descends
And all who I pass I greet
For every face is a friend
For every face is a friend
Fresh and glad is the morn at prime
And my heart is a lilt with rhyme
The song wells up as I go
And my feet to the tune keep time
My feet to the tune keep time
Come along with me I pray
Come and banish care away
For this is the open road
And this is God’s new made day
And this is God’s new made day
Some people say that darkies can’t sing
Way down yonder in the corn fields,
Down by the stream, where melons grow
Back to my home I dare not go
For if I do my rent I owe.
Memories of holiday Skipsea (sands) September 1915.
Golden sands and dancing sea
Clear blue sky and waving tree,
Fresh keen air and salt sea spray
Call to me and bid me stay.
Suggested by a view of the sky March 25 (1916) seen from 20 Division Office
Lake of blue, white cloud surrounded
Set in the sky, thy depths unsounded
Swift to thy seas, fleets the barque of my thoughts
Freighted with fancy, in ecstasy caught
Serene profound, is thy star strewn space
Gifted with beauty, clothed with grace
Wide flung thy realm, thy jewels worlds
Of emerald and sapphire, Topaz and pearls
Beauteous islets afloat in the west
Tinted with gold, surely isles of the blest
Within them, romance with her fairy rod
Weaves holes fit for heroes, for God
A few thoughts suggested by a cutting from the Hull Times relative to the Nation Mission and the revival of Spiritual life of our nation.
The extract quotes the endeavours and writings of some Socialists who wish to teach children by means of secular Sunday schools.
Not only this but they are in direct antagonism to religious teaching.
A few quotations will show this.
For example -: religion degrades children by teaching them to look above instead of ahead.
It perpetuates all manner of spurious moralities and conventions which are only fit to be poured down the sink of oblivion like so much foul water.
“Furthers the idea of God is the keynote of a perverted civilisation it must be destroyed”.
Lastly when God is expelled from human hearts then what is called “divine grace” will be banished too.
What a precious trio of opinions these are.
Really I am tempted to ask, if this writer has had any experience of the particular degradation which befall religiously nourished children.
Does it degrade a child to be taught to love its early parents, on the contrary, love ennobles and is parent to the virtues.
Similarly if parental love does not degrade, but to the contrary, but does not love to the Divine degrade but to the contrary, it enriches.
Turning once more to the extracts, I am amazed at the ignorance exhibited at what true religion is and does.
Religion degrades children by teaching them to look above instead of ahead.
As far as I understand religion it teaches us to look to the Devine for help, inspiration and power.
In this sense certainly religion does teach us to look to a Power who without question we admit gladly and in faith, is above us.
Yet how does this prevent us looking ahead, or how is it contrary to a cautious regard to the future.
One thing religion does teach and a thing of absolute importance which however he does not know to exist.
Moreover it is a point which if anything is fatal to the system of secular teaching, some would even say to Socialism itself.
Whilst I would not urge this latter entirely, I would say this, that if we are to have socialism at all it will not be by his secularism but only as the fruit of Christianity.
The point to which I refer and to which religion gives an important place is in the looking inward, the turning of vision to that Sanctuary within which is the meeting place of the human and divine.
Upon this point and contrasting the method of the securest and the believer I will quote Dr. Martineau.
“Two methods exist at aiming at human improvement – by adjusting circumstances without and by addressing the affections within.
The one is institutional and systematic, the other is personal and moral, the influence of soul on soul, life creating life.
And in comparing these, it is not difficult to show the superior triumphs of the latter, which was the method Christ and Christianity”.
There you have a complete and triumphant reply to the cheap uninformed sneers against religion.
Truth is that less than any of us do they know religion.
I will only touch upon the last of the secularist’s remarks, namely that the idea of God is the keyhole of a degraded civilisation.
It seems almost enough for me to deny the fact in toto.
The idea of God, the experience of God has apparently never entered into his psychology.
If he had had any experience of God, he could not have made any such statement.
Those who experience the sacredness, the ecstasy of communion with the divine have more than a sufficient answer to the secularist’s assertion.
Religion is a fusion of the moral, intellectual and aesthetic and as such is the highest passion we can rise to.
If civilisation is perverted it is not because Christianity has perverted it, but as had been truly said, because Christianity has not yet seriously been put into practice.
Finally I might point out that the fine, so called pagan Emperor Marcus Aurelius knew better than our secularist.
He knew more of psychology and the facts of life than the modernist above quoted when he wrote “be you always furnished with rules and principles to let you into the knowledge of things human and divine, remembering even in your slightest action the connection needs to have with each other. For without a regard for things divine, you will fail in your behaviour towards men”.