The relief was over at 10.00 p.m. without casualties. Our mess kit went astray and didn’t arrive till 11.00 p.m. We brought one cooker right into the village successfully. A quiet night, but generally more activity and liveliness than when we were here last. Went all round this a.m., and am just in. The line is improved in many ways and in wonderfully good condition. We had a fine night for the relief and fine today. Thanks to the socks, and plenty of candles, which we want now as we are back in the caves. Our letters leave here at 3:30 p.m. to catch the Div. bag at 6.00 p.m. at H_____ [Hedauville]. We were just out of M_____ [Mesnil] in time yesterday, as they put some dozen big ones in there this morning, but only one casualty I hear. I wore my tin hat for 3½ hours this morning and found it not at all uncomfortable after all. Have not heard a word as to the other wounded. Mercier has been sent home, I believe. The seven cows still all right, and five milking still.
It began to rain about 3.00 p.m. yesterday and continued steadily and heavily till 9.00 a.m. this morning—result trenches deep in water and mud, and collapsing. Fergie made an issue of mufflers and mitts before we came in and they were thankfully received. Just heard cuckoo for first time. It’s turned much warmer, which is a good sign, and the rain has stopped. We had one casualty last evening, from rifle grenade. Very slight scratch at back of head. ‘At.’ and young Shill. were standing close to him at the time. Am asked to send in name of officer to go home to be instructed in Staff Capt. duties. Brew jumped at it. The Padre has arranged communion service after ‘Stand Down’ in the morning, after 4:15 a.m. It’s the only time most people could attend. The letters now go by hand to M_____ [Mesnil], where one of the grooms takes them on to Fergie for Div. bag.
Have nothing to wear today, so put new blade in razor! Pratt’s suggestion. We had a great strafe on last night, a cutting out expedition on our right, and we pounded the Hun trenches with all sorts from 9.00 p.m.to 10:45 p.m.—a deafening noise. Haven’t heard result yet. Think they were surprised as they only made a feeble response in guns. Went out to the marsh posts at 4.00 a.m., then to service 5.00 a.m., so began the day early. Padre is off holding services all round. Fine again, sunny, but N. [north] wind; rained again heavily yesterday; heavily from 3.00 p.m.—7.00 p.m.; trenches running rivers again.
The gunner officer down here for this 24 hours was Battery Q.M.S. [Quartermaster Sergeant] in 120th Battery, had 18 years’ of service. Came out with 5th Div. and was all through the retreat. Seems quite a nice fellow, and young looking. He says the Archies [anti-aircraft guns] are manned by R.H.A. [Royal Horse Artillery] Wheatley has gone to R.H.A. No one in his place yet.
Am getting out the cows to graze today, two at a time, and tethered as there is quite a lot of grass. We had one man, Bryans, from Armagh, wounded last night, carrying rations; bad I fear—M.G. bullet in back, and still here. Internal haemorrhage. Aeroplanes active today again, on both sides, first time for some days owing to weather. A fine drying wind. I hope will dry things up a bit. Bryans was in the last draft. Attwell, John, wounded slightly 21st. The Russkys seems to be pushing well. They are wonderful soldiers. When one considers the heavy knocks they’ve had, their recuperative powers are great. Poor young Bruce Armstrong, in Boyle’s R.E. Coy, was killed yesterday by a trench mortar, I hear. Instantaneous. Result of raids—13 prisoners, our casualties five wounded, Hun casualties I haven’t heard.
The raid referred to was conducted by 48 men from 17th (Service) Battalion, The Highland Light Infantry (3rd Glasgow) in 97th Brigade, 32nd Division.
Had quite an active day, and it was a lovely sunny spring day. Went over to see Ricardo in p.m.—he is on our left. He had two killed and 16 wounded, including three officers, the night before, and was rather sad about it. The Padre held seven services and walked miles. I visited the cookers with Berry in the morning, and various working parties. It was a pleasure to be out. Trenches drying up well under a drying breeze. I’m glad we are this side of the river. The other side did not strike me as being a pleasant spot at all. Am waiting for Brig. and have Coy. Commanders’ conference at 2.00 p.m., and to go to far end of line with R.E. at 3.00 p.m. A patrol, under Montgomery, met a Bosche patrol last night and outed one man. We had no casualties. Aerial activity on both sides this a.m., otherwise quiet and a quiet night, except for Hun M.G. fire on our ration road. Certainly, when fine, this part of the line is pleasant, and except for the crowd in the cellar I prefer it to M_____ [Mesnil]. A good deal more interesting. Pratt full of zeal for sniper posts, etc., and observation of the Bosches’ doings through telescope. Elephant not ready yet, so still in old cellar. Trenches dried up grand and were delightful today. Had a long afternoon inspecting various places for projected work. Andrews, a new officer, went sick today with Hun spots. Div. sports at H_____ [Hedauville] today. We won wrestling on horseback and some flat race. Padre went to see Bryan in Hospital; he is going on well.
A cloudless, windless day, and poozily warm. Bosche ’planes trying to get over. At 2.00 a.m. ‘At.’ came and reported while digging a new sap he’d come across a shaft shored with wood, with a wire in it, and suspected mining shaft. I went out myself and made a close examination, and am convinced it’s an old French shaft from our lines to a listening post, which has fallen in at entrance, which is a relief. While we were here a strange dog came nosing around, and in a few minutes we saw a small German patrol go back over a German parapet. Patrols evidently go out with a dog. It was a lovely dawn with a mist along the river, which should mean fine weather. Another officer been posted, and on his way from the Base. Don’t give us any information about him. We had our first case of an accidental wound this morning. A man in ‘C’ Coy. shot himself in the foot. They put a lot of trench mortars into Battalion on our right, about midnight. A certain amount of M.G. fire, otherwise a quiet night. There is an almost total absence of sniping, and the Bosche lot opposite are a peaceful lot just at present. We are grazing cows daily now. One broke away on being first let out, broke rope, and careered up the hill. However, she was pursued and recaptured.
Another lovely day and warm. Too many people moving about the village yesterday! Result—it was searched with whizz-bangs from 2.00 p.m. to 3.00 p.m. A whizz-bang got a poor fellow called Hutchinson, from Richhill, and killed him. He was buried last night. He also was in the last draft, which have been singularly unlucky. Tin hats were too hot to touch after an hour in the sun yesterday. They are, though, of course, much uglier than the French, more serviceable in every way, and give more protection. Blackwood goes for old ‘A’, and very rightly. We shall never do anything while he’s there. I’m sure. I must say I’ve enjoyed this tour in the trenches, the weather since Sunday has been glorious. Heaps of aeroplanes up and being fired at from both sides. They put three trench mortars (large) into the village yesterday p.m., but luckily did no damage. Am just going to sally forth on the morning rounds. The fine weather has made every one very chirpy. The men who were not with us Xmas 1914 should not get P.M. [Princess Mary] boxes.
The casualty was:
22151 Private James Alexander Hutchinson, killed in action on 25 April 1916; Hamel Military Cemetery.
Relief went off all right, but I didn’t get in till nearly midnight. There was a good deal of firing of all sorts going on up to 11.00 p.m. Another lovely day, but getting very hot. This place is crammed with people, and a great dearth of water. Much less comfortable than when we were here before. Guns everywhere. We had a capital show yesterday p.m. Huns were very busy on railway about 150 yards from us. We got How. [howitzer] Major to come down and get his Hows. on and gave them 14 H.E.s (high explosive shells], two of which were most effective, and one saw baulks of timber flying in the air. Spoilt his little game for a bit and made him stuffy, and he just bursts trench mortars and whizz-bangs into the Battalion on our right during the evening. The How. Major, one Scott, was Geoffrey White’s Capt. in Riding Troop. Very nice fellow. Am going to visit his O.P. [observation post] this p.m. While we were at lunch an H.E. near a working party of R.E. [Royal Engineers], and killed a Sergeant.
Another lot of men go on leave May 3rd, and the last lot of officers May 8th. Then we begin again on 13th. Wonder what the Govt. will do with Sinn Feiners, and Casement. Hope they’ll shoot the latter. There must be great excitement in the North over the capture of Dublin. Very hot. No paper, so we don’t know how Dublin is faring.
About 11.00 a.m. the Bosches began to put whizz-bangs all over our sector with a good many 4.2 Hows. into some new works. Lasted till about 1:15 p.m. No casualties. Movement about the area was difficult. Spent a most instructive three hours in R.A. observation post near here, and had a thorough examination of Bosche lines. Their line is marvellously strong. The Med. Officer of 12th was wounded in both hands today, in the line.
Hope you’re having this grand weather? Had tea with Scott and How. Bde. [Howitzer Brigade] Schweder is one of his Subs [subalterns]. Notwithstanding water difficulties we bathed 150 men this p.m. I hope to do 200 tomorrow. Very warm evening again. Am trying to get eight days relief, instead of six, now the weather is good. One is just getting settled down to the work when one has to go out, and then the nightmare of relief. Monkhouse is Brig. R.A. 29th Div. near here, I believe.
Another lovely day with a gentle breeze. Instead of resting the men while out of the line, we have to find large working parties every night, and the heavy work and the sudden increase in temperature is causing a certain amount of high temperatures. I have told the Brig. plainly that unless the men get some rest there will be a breakdown. I did the idiot boy over a working party of 100 ordered for last night, and didn’t send it, thereby causing excitement, and reasons in writing. However, we saved the men and they got one night’s rest anyway. Tonight we find 80 men. Oh! These working parties, such an amount of needless fatigue for the men. No letters again today, due to this Dublin business, I suppose. We’ve only got Wed’s papers which gives no more news than Tuesday. I visited another Battery near here, commanded by a Capt. who came out as a sub. [subaltern] in ‘B’ Battery. Seemed a very capable fellow. He was full of praises of the gunners. We have a working party lengthening a sap and wiring it in the front line tonight. 30 men and two officers from Pioneers rolled up this p.m. to assist in work generally.
Another fine sunny day. More wind, and dust blowing in clouds. The night party returned without mishap, having dug their sap and wired it. The 16th [Royal Irish Rifles] were rattled at first by a few whizz-bangs going over head. They had evidently done no trench work, and were rather at sea generally. No wonder, as they were making railways in rear for the last six months. Wonder how long postal arrangements to Ireland will be interrupted by this Dublin show; except for some days, we’ve got to do without letters, owing to this rotten Govt. What troops have they got to deal with the situation? They might send the 10th [(Reserve) Battalion] down. How they’d enjoy it.
3.00 p.m.—Huns been shelling Battery behind our H.Q. about 400 yards. From 12.00 to 3.00 p.m. put in 60 shells, six of which were duds and no damage done. Very interesting watching it from our garden.
The 10th (Reserve) Battalion was not sent to Dublin, although some members of the Battalion were detached to the ‘Ulster Composite Battalion’, which comprised men from across 15th Ulster Reserve Brigade. It was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel J K McClintock, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, (Commanding Officer of the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers) and arrived in Dublin on 25 April. It took part in operations around the General Post Office.
Four days, no letters. Suppose Troops from England occupy all available boats. Another attempted raid on our part last night, preceded by a two-hour artillery strafe, which made sleep impossible. The raid was from the 29th Div. to wipe out their former fiasco, but alas! it failed. The Bosche was ready for them and drove them back. We had a service in a forge this a.m., and got about 250 men there. Padre gave us a splendid sermon. They left this place alone last night and only put a few shrapnel bouquets at the guns, making 120 odd shots at them in the day. The result of the 120 shots, most of them 5.9 [-inch], on the Battery behind us, was one man wounded as he went out to mend the wire. Went down to see Brew and his lot yesterday p.m. They are holding an outpost in a wood and seemed very happy. The wood was quite lovely—young beech, and a carpet of anemones, blue bells and cowslips. No primroses. The river near them where they bath; quite an ideal existence in this weather. Thursday’s and Friday’s ‘Times’ came yesterday. Interesting as to Government defeat over the recruiting campaign, but destitute of much news about Ireland. Sudden thunderstorm came up out of a cloudless sky, dust blowing and heavy peals of thunder, but rain not begun yet. It will lay the dust, which has been very bad.
10 p.m.—No letter again today. Yesterday’s ‘Daily Mail’ gives a two-page account of the Dublin rising. I’m relieved to see Ulster is absolutely quiet. It seems to have come to a head a little prematurely, but is part of a large conspiracy engineered by German money. I see Enniscorthy and Gorey [both in County Wexford] are centres of trouble.
The Times, Thursday 27 April 1917, pages recording the Dublin Rising