General Nugent turned up here today, very smiling, “There is more discipline in the little finger of any man in the Ulster Division than in a Company of Regulars,” is what he said, and I think he is right. He said the Brigade had got a very good report again from the trenches. Young Stronge in Royal Scots came to lunch. In charge of details at Abbeville. Visited other Coys billets this a.m. Quite satisfactory. Reading room going well: have bought four good cheap oil lamps in Abbeville. Fergie has found tables, forms, chairs, and heaps of newspapers keep coming in. Today three large bales arrived containing 378 pair socks, 300 writing pads and pencils, 11 mufflers. Simply splendid, and they have now been distributed. Padre is writing a letter to four local papers, of thanks, etc., and I put a notice in Battalion Orders—‘Parcels, containing etc., have been received from County Armagh Committee for providing comforts to 9th, and have been distributed to Coys.’ Heavy rain again last night. The country is fearfully holding. Rode out with Pratt and Adjt. to look for suitable drill grounds and rifle range. A very comfy bed here and I sleep well.
Heavy rain all night. We got the rain and thaw on Monday, same as you. Splendid collecting all those things. Socks are a Godsend, they can’t have to many while we are stationary. The road into some of their billets is 12 inches deep in liquid mud. No bottom to road, only mud, and a hollow impossible to drain. We are digging a deep pit, 12 feet deep, to see if we can get to chalk to drain away the water.
Such a constant and violent wet day, never ceased, and now a wind has got up. Village nearly under water, mud a foot deep in parts. I fear Adjt. will be off tomorrow. Am rather sorry at his departure. Peal’s boots are simply splendid. I paddled about in seas of liquid mud a foot deep, and sticky slush, and rode 8 mile in driving rain. My breeches and socks were dry as a bone when I changed at 6:30 p.m., and my feet as warm as toast all day. McKane is now R.S.M. I think everyone has been depressed by the weather, but it is what we must expect now for the next three months. We should be thankful we’re not in the trenches or on the march.
Rained all night. This life in billets in winter is wretchedly uncomfortable for the men, and so little means of improving their lot. They get wet day after day, and no means of drying their clothes. Up to their ankles in mud if they stir out; food not to good, I mean not enough potatoes and vegetables, and constant short ration of bread, and very indifferent at that; always a proportion of bully beef, 25 p.c. [%] generally, and of biscuit, which they loathe. Dark at 4.00 p.m. and nothing to do. Reading room so small and no other to be had, and they absolutely loath this playing at soldiers. Field days, digging, etc. Today was finer, rain most of a.m. and fine p.m.: water everywhere.
The General (Hacket Pain) has gone. Came to say ‘good bye’, was very broke at going and I felt very much for him. I am sorry for the Brigade; he knew us all and had been with us from the start. Adjutant goes tomorrow. It has turned into a wet p.m., and reams more have come in about arrangements for baths, etc., I think eatables are most acceptable for Xmas. Fergie is getting turkeys and geese. Bread is still a difficulty—sodden and short in supply. They’d spend all their money on bread.
Adjutant went off this morning at 9:30 a.m. He was very broke at leaving and I was quite lumpy myself. He has been such a companion. I shall miss him fearfully. I trust the good work he had done in the Battalion will live on. I gave him a chit to the Indian Office, and have published a farewell Order. A G.C.M. [General Court Martial] this a.m.
We are very busy starting Battalion baths, washing places, and drying rooms and mending rooms, regular laundry. Everything having to be improvised. Fergie hard at it. We have got a Belgian couple to come out and run a coffee bar for the men three times a week to start with, and if a success every day. In all these shows Fergie is simply invaluable.
Fine a.m.; wild wet p.m. Griffith, the new Brigadier (was in the Bedfordshires) came to see us. Interior economy for same are to take the place of all training, is the latest order! Our arrangement for men’s baths caused an amusing episode—two men had to dig a large hole for pit for bath water, in the kitchen garden. Marguerite, the caretaker, came in tears after lunch, at the idea of the soldiers bathing in this hole and running wild and naked through Madame’s vegetables! We calmed her and gave her 5 francs. She spoke so fast it was hard to make out at what she was alarmed at first. I thought she meant the hole was damaging her garden; finally I gathered what she was driving at, but not before the flock of us—Pratt, Padre, Fergie, Berry, Stronge, Cather and self had adjourned to the kitchen garden.
The interpreter only remained a week. Much happier without one.
Only just back from Gen. C.M. [General Court Martial] 6:45, and have to go again tomorrow. Evelyn Woods’ son, who was on the stage, appeared as the prisoner’s friend. He is now a Gunner Captain. Saw Ricardo and Hessey.
The Colonial Dr. was acquitted. Five brothers serving, and had paid his own passage back from Jo’burg, where he was living since the S.A. [South African] war. An Australian. At the end he said “I was always told a Military Court Martial was absolutely fair. Now I know it.” So we may have done a good day’s work Imperially. Rumours of a move and possibly into another army.