THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 8th

Similar day, hard frost and sunny. It’s really very healthy and bracing. The sun is delightful, and getting powerful, but it freezes all day. Rode round back units this a.m. Going up this p.m. to see how matters go at the change. I think things could be improved—blocks prevented, etc., by a little care. Did I tell you Saunderson has gone home? G.H.Q. come here this time. I feel there is much waste out here, especially in Higher Command messes. I’m glad to say they’ve taken my hint about liqueurs.

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FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 9th

Still the same glorious sunny days and cold nights. Was down the line today. I like going into the Coy. dug-outs and having a chat with the Coy. officers, and getting to know them. Am planning out a different way of reliefs. I went down yesterday and watched the relief being carried out and noted various points for amendment. Being six weeks in command of Bde. has given me the chance to really command it, and not mere cipher or locum tenens. It has been most interesting, and very enjoyable. Our various Battalion H.Q. in this sector are quite good and comfortable.

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 10th

Another lovely day, not quite so cold. Going to B_____ [Bailleul] this p.m. to get my hair cut. Bosche very busy for two hours this a.m. with heavy stuff, trying to find our guns, but failed; though he put in over 100 shells he did no damage. Have fixed up my new system of reliefs, which, I hope, will work well. At last met Shirley—new G.S.O.2, 54th Sikhs. He’s been a Bde. Major on the Somme for six months; rather interesting.

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 11th

Last night very little frost and thawing cloudy sky, up to about noon today, and mud. Cleared now, and I think will freeze again. I don’t know what’s happening to our ‘planes about here, but they are letting the Bosche ‘planes come over freely. The 9th played 2nd R.I.R [Royal Irish Rifles] in a neighboring Div. at footer yesterday and beat them. Fergie very pleased. He marched the Battalion over with the Band to view the match, and the men loved it. He’s simply splendid. Duke comes back on Thursday, I’m glad to say. Good deal of shell fire going on all day. B. Oliphant gone to Senior Officers’ Course, at Army School today. They wanted to send him in a lorry, but I protested and got him a car.

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 12th

A partial thaw. Froze early, but has been thawing slowly all morning. Things getting greasy. Had a long trek round the line today. Everything very quiet as it is misty. Have begun an hour’s daily conversation with Percy ‘le’ interpreter, 6.00—7.00 p.m. Quite a Sahib. He’s a Sergeant in the French Cavalry, and was wounded. Rain now set in.

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 13th

Thaw still continues mildly, but mud is prevalent and going very greasy. Went round one of the Batteries this a.m. with Cowan, who is acting in command of the group. Everything very apple pie; men well turned out and in the most comfy dug-outs, all with beds, dining hall, bath room, Sergts’ mess, and a piano. Cowan was Sub. [subaltern] in 43rd Batt’y; came out with 1st Div. Pleasant dinner with 9th last night. Seven of the old lot there—Pratt, Stronge, Fergie, young Shill., Brew, Padre and self. Very good repast, soup, fish, chicken, apple tart and savoury. 9th played 10th Inniskillings yesterday and beat them 9—0. Fergie in excellent form. Sun coming out, much milder.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 14th

Frost again and bright sun today. The thaw seems to have stopped. Thank goodness there is plenty of work; there are various shows on which we keep busy. I haven’t met Mayes yet; he is with some Field Ambulance. Don’t send socks till you hear. One of the leave boats rammed and sunk a submarine lately—rather a good performance. Heavy bombardment on our front between 1.00 a.m. and 2.00 a.m. Duke returns today or tomorrow.


Footnotes

The incident to which Lieutenant Colonel Blacker refers was the ramming of UC-46, a coastal minelaying submarine, by the escort destroyer HMS Liberty on 8 February off Goodwin Sands. UC-46 was lost with all hands.