TUESDAY, APRIL 18th

Such a stormy night, and a wet cold morning so far. I am waiting for it to get a little better before sallying forth to Bde. H.Q., and then on to have a look at the line. I fear this rain will have made the trenches bad again. Present idea is a postponement till all are ready, probably in that case the Bosche will push first. We won our return match against Ricardo’s lot (9th Inniskillings) yesterday, only by 1 goal to 0. Ground very greasy. Fergie was anxious as to result. Have collected a few things to send home.

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WEDNESDAY, APRIL 19th

I enclose list of casualties. Vennard is an elder brother of the nice Sgt. I have not met G.S.O.1. yet, he is a Sapper. Had lunch with Ricardo yesterday and a long talk. I then passed on to M_____ [Mesnil] and saw Leitrim, and had a long talk about the trench line. He is seedy—gastric trouble. Got back here at 6:20 p.m., rained all day. Sloan was never touched. Don’t know how report got about. He is shoeing smith, and never goes into danger. We have to move out of this at 10.00 a.m. tomorrow for some obscure reason, as we cannot begin relief till 8.00 p.m., owing to the light. We shall have to put in eight hours in M_____ [Mesnil] enroute. Shall be very sorry to leave this place and the old ladies. I don’t expect we shall get in here again. Div. H.Q. will be sure to bag it. Fergie and Transport remain here, but the animals are in the open now. Betsy Jane and Uncle are in a stable all right. There seems a Cabinet crisis on. I hope it will lead to something. Glad the Army Council are firm. An uncomfortable day tomorrow. I am arranging for our mail to come on at once, and will try and send an answer back by messenger which should catch H.Q. bag here at 6.00 p.m. Not actually raining now but heavy clouds about. You will be glad to hear we all have tin hats now, and everyone has to wear them in the line. Fergie has also issued me with goggles, and a new field dressing, so I’m well equipped! You ask if it feels warm in France after Ireland. It is bitter still, and I am wearing all my winter things and Tiger’s woolly, and Brit. warm on bed at night. It must get warm soon here. We are nearly through April. No word of leave being reopened. I wonder how they will relieve Battalion. Anyway 12th [Royal Irish Rifles] will relieve us. We shall be in for Easter. I’d made all arrangements to leave here latest, about 5.00 p.m., and give men tea en route, and now it’s all upset, which is bothersome. However, no doubt, it’s all for the best. I only hope we shall have our usual luck in weather, but it doesn’t look promising just at present. Menaul and young Ensor returned this morning at 2.00 a.m., and lay outside for three hours, unable to get in as it was so rough.


Footnotes

The ‘Type B’ helmet, based on the patented design by John Brodie, was introduced into service in late-1915—initially as trench stores (i.e. issued to soldiers only when they went forward into the trenches). Early criticism resulted in the production of the ‘Helmet, steel, Mark I’ in early 1916 and from the spring of that year ‘tin hats’ were issued in increasing numbers to all troops. The helmet remained in service until replaced by the Mk II helmet in 1940.

Helmet, steel, Mk I

Helmet, steel, Mk I

THURSDAY, APRIL 20th

Only time for a hurried scrawl. Am half way into the trenches at M_____ [Mesnil] and am moving on almost at once. Have been fixing things up with Coy Commanders, and have only just got away, and am due now in H_____ [Hamel] to talk things over with 14th R.I.R. [Royal Irish Rifles] Blustery, showery cold, but improving. Very fit.

 

GOOD FRIDAY, APRIL 21st

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.

SATURDAY, APRIL 22nd

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.

EASTER SUNDAY, APRIL 23rd

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.


Footnote

The raid referred to was conducted by 48 men from 17th (Service) Battalion, The Highland Light Infantry (3rd Glasgow) in 97th Brigade, 32nd Division.

EASTER MONDAY, APRIL 24th

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.