MONDAY, AUGUST 21st

The burning of the Reg. pay office must have caused hideous confusion, but I expect they are slack and tied up with red tape over the whole thing. Fine today and drying. Days are shortening. We can start relief half-an-hour earlier owing to the light. Just had the 14 young officers for 1½ hours, and I am most favourably impressed with them. Bright, intelligent, and keen, they strike me. But 14 is a large number to assimilate. I will write a line to the Reg. Paymaster and ask him to expedite matters as far as he can. I am sending officers and men on this recruiting tour who were over the parapet and did good work. I am feeling very low, and feeling this beginning again without their help is beyond me. The Battalion is all wrong, and no chance to get it right. I cannot even parade more than one Coy. at a time here, and they are all over the place, and all the best gone out of them. They say no chance of leave before winter.


Footnote

Opened as a linen trading centre in 1728, the impressive Dublin Linen Hall was the epicentre of the sale of finished linen from all over Ireland. The large hall comprised nearly 600 rooms. Six open courts were surrounded by store-rooms and galleries and traders could discuss business in a coffee room. The hall fell into disuse following the demise of the Dublin linen trade after the opening of Belfast’s Linen Hall. In the 19thC the buildings were used variously by the British Army and municipal bodies. In the early afternoon of 27th April 1916, during the Easter rising in Dublin, Irish Republican rebels broke into Linenhall barracks, captured 40 unarmed men of the Army Pay Corps and a number of policemen, and set fire to the barracks. The buildings were largely destroyed, and with them the records of the Army Pay Office in Ireland.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 20th

An active day picking up the threads and arrears. Am favourably impressed with the 14 new subalterns—one or two valuable acquisitions. Watson, an expert Lewis gunner, was in Sussex Yeomanry. Am taking him on as L.G. Officer and Intelligence, while Ensor and Menaul are away. He will live at H.Q. as we are a small party, with Pratt gone and Padre away. We got the rain Friday and Saturday all right. Today is pleasant, fine, warm but a drying wind. I asked the Gen. if the King wrote, after the Push, and he said “Yes—a charming letter”, but he dared not show it for fear it should get into the Press. I fear it’s impossible to extract people out of the other Battalions. It’s hard enough to get one’s own back. We got into the line again tomorrow night. Walked round and had a long talk with Ricardo—he is only 300 yards from here. Pratt doesn’t go till tomorrow. I shall miss him greatly. The Gen. is immensely proud of the Div. He ran that show for the King the other day very well. There were men there from two other Divs. whose Commanders did nothing. When the King came to our Div. Gen. N. took hold of him, and as he came to each man he read out what gallant action he was there for, and the King chatted and shook hands with each. The Padre was quite pleased really, and greatly impressed with the way the Gen. did it. Ricardo, who was there, told me the same. When he got to the Padre he said “This, your Majesty, is the finest type of parson.” Have sent £10 to Lady Carson’s Fund. Fergie says he has sent you a list of men identified and buried by the Durhams. Any news we get will be sent to you.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 19th

Just borrowed Div. car and going off to ‘Wipers’ [Ypres] to see Dickie. Found Dickie at Pop [Poperinghe], also had chat with John Hotham. Got back at 12.00 p.m. and found the 14 new officers awaiting me. They mostly come from 4th or 7th Battalions. One has been out before. Three R.C.’s! [Roman Catholics] Have just had a letter from O.C. Durhams saying they have found Atkinson’s body and buried it, and about 40 bodies of men, all of whom they have buried. Will you go and see Mrs. Atkinson, and I will not write till tomorrow. I suppose at the back of my mind there was a feeling of hope about ‘At.’ for the news of his having been found came as a shock. As I have said before, he and Charlie Johnston I feel more than any of them. I have been so closely associated with them for so long, and both were such splendid types of Ulster at its very best. The Battalion will never see their like again. There were no details, but they were all very particular about reading the funeral service.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 18th

The First Hundred Thousand by Ian Hay (John Hay Beith)

The First Hundred Thousand by Ian Hay (John Hay Beith)

I am such a success here the Gen. has induced me to stay another night! So I shan’t return till tomorrow; it’s really delightful here, and everyone so pleasant. I hear 14 young officers have joined the 9th since I came here. I view the prospect with dismay! Repington is here. Prince is evidently not very sanguine of an early peace. Two other C.O.s were asked here, but both refused. I believe they are all frightened of the Gen. B. Smith has gone and been succeeded by a man called Marshall, who seems a capital fellow. He was out with Scott [in fact, Shackleton] in the Antarctic. Had a poozy, restful night. A lovely morning, now clouding over. The Act. Asst. Provost Marshal, Tully by name, is in same Bn as Hay—Capt. Beith (10 A. and S. Hrs) [10th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders]. He says Hay has got a billet at home as M.G. Instructor. Mackenzie (old 93rd) was their Col. at Loos. He was not killed, only wounded; (he is Mrs. Lewis White’s brother-in-law). Most of his characters were ‘blends,’ but Bobby Lyttle was taken from life.


Footnote

John Hay Beith wrote under the nom-de-plume Ian Hay. He was known at the time for his popular account of his experiences in uniform, The First Hundred Thousand, which was published in 1915. He transferred to the Machine Gun Corps and later served in the British Military Mission to the United States. In the early years of the Second World War he served as Director of Public Relations at the War Office. Second Lieutenant Bobby Little, ‘a fresh-faced youth, with an engaging smile’, is one of the books principal characters.

THURSDAY, AUGUST 17th

Pak’ has gone home with neurasthenia. Had such a peaceful day. I lay out in the hay in the shade, and listened to the wood pigeons. After a 9.00 a.m. breakfast I read the ‘Times’ and then went and inspected the two offices—‘G’ branch with Place and Bruce, and then ‘Q’ with Singleton, and put forward various suggestions and views, which were received in a most friendly spirit. The Gen. went off to the trench line about 9.30 a.m. and is only just back. I must say he’s more than kind and thoughtful, and insists on my doing exactly what I like, always ready to chat and discuss men and affairs. A heavy shower from 1—3.00 p.m. Sun come out again now, but everything moist and sticky. So like home. A most comfy bed and a peaceful rest night and day—a lovely view from my window for miles, as far as you can see a constant stream of Verey lights going up and showing the front line; very wonderful effect at night. Appleton, the Asst. Provost Marshal, was bitten today by a mad dog, and has gone to Paris for Pasteur treatment. Can’t think that leave will be re-opened till Nov. The Push must finish by end of Sept., and then I fancy leave will be re-opened. I hear the French don’t like our going on leave during the Push. Hooper is here with me, and enjoying the change. There is a large bath here! Electric light! Betsy Jane very well, but hates the flies and the heat. Cooler and cloudy today, but no rain. Showers yesterday. No sign of our men from the Rifles yet. Am stirring here about it. I see Holt pretty often. Don’t think our other H.Q. will be ready for some time. S.F. is improved, and will do as long as fine weather lasts. The new one is so far from our front line, though no further from Bosche line on our left.

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 16th

Here I am at Div. H.Q. Very comfy chateau on a hill, with a lovely view for miles. They sent a car, and after 10 mile drive got here for lunch. Gen. and all his staff very affable. Somerset Saunderson has taken Farnham’s place. The relief went off all right, one man in transport slightly wounded; tin hat saved his life. Was in bed at 2.00 a.m. Padre goes off on a fortnight’s leave tonight. The King did not decorate any of them, alas! but spoke to them all. We are now in a new Corps, the IX. I believe Hamilton-Gordon commands. The peace and quiet of this place is very resting, and the change very pleasant. All are very nice about the little show of ours. Shuter, whom I saw this a.m. was delightful. I spoke to D.M. about Shill being made 2nd in Command, so I hope that’s all right. The Corps have been harrying the Div. for a prisoner to find out who are opposite us, and of course all Battalions were being worried about it. Consequently the feeling of relief and thankfulness from the Div. to the C.O.s is enormous. Am sending Godson’s name for M.C. and Corpl. Clements’ for D.C.M., and I think I have ensured their being favourably considered here. They have a Div. band here which plays daily. Two anxious nights in succession have given me a head. I’m all right if I get my sleep regular.


Footnote

For his gallantry during the ambush, Corporal Clements was awarded the Military Medal.

TUESDAY, AUGUST 15th

E A Godson

E A Godson

Pratt goes to 11th Inniskillings, Hessey’s old Batt. Thought you’d like Ensor. He’s a splendid fellow. Flies bad here. We had such a good little show last night. Patrol, two officers and 16 men, went out and laid traps for Bosche, which he walked into. Four German prisoners, and three others killed. No casualties on our side. Show thought out and planned and carried out by Godson, a capable youth. We sent a bogus telephone message to front line Coys with idea of Bosche overhearing, which we believe they are able to do, that patrol of four was going out at midnight to a certain place. Actually sent a patrol of 18 some 100 yards further, and at 9:30 p.m. Bosche patrol of seven walked into them. I went up to front line at 11.00 p.m. and took my place on the parapet. At 11.25 p.m. the show began, and very soon back came the patrol with four Germans, one slightly wounded. I came to Battalion H.Q. with them, searched them and found nothing. Said they didn’t understand English, so aloud on the ‘phone I asked B.M. [Brigade Major] if I should shoot them, but not a wince out of them. The B.M. thought I was in earnest and said “For God’s sake don’t”. We then packed them off to Bde H.Q. The Battalion much bucked up over it. The Corps have been harrying to get a prisoner, so Div. delighted. Prussians, fine well set up, in good condition, one obviously pleased, others sullen. You would have smiled to have seen me in a tiny dug-out interrogating them, every word of German I ever know having left me. O.N. [General Nugent] came to see me mid-day, very pleased. Am to go to Div. H.Q. tomorrow for two days’ change. Am sending in Godson’s name for M.C.


Footnotes

Godson was awarded the Military Cross for his conduct during this ambush. He recorded the incident in his journal and his description of the operation was included in Falls’ History of 36th (Ulster) Division. Godson added additional material to that version in his short war memoire: Godson, E A. (No date). The Great War 1914-1918. Incidents, Experiences, Impressions, and Comments of a Junior Officer. Hertford: Self Published.

MONDAY, AUGUST 14th

Jack Barbour

Jack Barbour

Trying to rain, but warm. They altered again, and this morn Padre and Lucas went (they didn’t take Barbour). Personally I am very sceptical about any of our men being prisoners. Fairly quiet last night except for usual M.G. They scattered a little big stuff round this a.m. and yesterday p.m., but no damage. I think they are short of guns here. Our guns are firing night and day, which must harry them, but they don’t retaliate. Sun come out and rain cleared off.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 13th

Robert Lucas MM

Robert Lucas MM

A sprinkle of rain in night, and it’s cooler today, but the night was very warm. The usual M.G. fire at night, and today about lunch time they put about eight 4.2’s near this. No damage. The 11th R.I.R. did very well on July 1st. This is a very bad place for Hun gas, and when the wind is E. special precautions have to be taken. The wind is now N.W. I’m glad to say.

An officer and two men who have been recommended for award are to go to be seen tomorrow by the King. Padre and Sergt. Lucas are going. Duke just been in and had a chat, pleasant and helpful.

5 p.m. The usual T.M. strafe has begun, but on our left, and our Hows. and 18 pdrs. are replying; such a din going on. Wire come in cancelling visit to King.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 12th

Major A C Pratt

Major A C Pratt

Such a roaster today. Thick fog up to about 8.00 a.m. You will see by enclosed that I am losing Pratt. I am very sorry. Of course, he has been of enormous help to me. Have been wandering round trenches, planning, etc., and making preparations for winter. I believe we shall move our H.Q. shortly to another farm—better in all respects, but too far from the front line. G.S.O.1. looked in today; so pleasant and helpful. I am sitting in shirt sleeves (as I have been all day) and perspiring at every pore. The afternoon trench mortar strafe now begun. I got a delicious ‘dig’ at Bde. staff today.

 


Footnote

Major A C Pratt was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and appointed to command 11th (Service) Battalion, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (Donegal & Fermanagh). For his service with 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. He was killed in action during the Battle of Langemarck on 16 August 1917. Originally buried near where he was killed at Wieltje, his remains were reinterred in Ypres Reservoir Cemetery in 1919.