We had service with the Downs this a.m. It then came on to drizzle, but cleared up after lunch, when Pratt, Padre, and I walked to R_____, [Ribeaucourt] about 2 miles, and went to see our former landladies, who were delighted to see us. Came round by Brigade office, and saw the Gen. for a short time. He had been out to a village where Ensor is trying to erect huts, without wood.
Rode out today to see if I could get any coal—can’t get any from A.S.C. [Army Service Corps] A problematic 9 cwt a week for 1,000 men! I bought 1,200 lbs. this p.m. for 42 francs, not too dear, but double what they charged a week ago. They have posted two officers from G.H.Q. School for Officers to join on 30th. I wonder what they will be like. Pratt very keen about his coffee shop. A fine a.m. turned to rain all p.m. Laundry and baths going strong. The rest of ‘A’ Company go off to-morrow, about 10 miles from here, to build huts, etc. Got four waggon loads of coke today for 120 francs. It only lasts a week in the laundry. It takes 7 braziers going night and day in the drying room to dry the clothes.
This a.m. I rode over to the village Ensor is improving, about 7½ miles away. Found him rather forlorn. The rest of his company went to him today, and I luckily struck the C.R.E. [Commander Royal Engineers] there and squared things for him, so I hope now he will be all right. Griffiths came here in my absence and wandered round laundry, recreation rooms, etc. I believe he was quite pleased with everything. A constant drizzle all day. Don’t notice much lengthening of days yet at either end. George Bruce has been made G.S.O. in Richardson’s place. I’m very glad, as I’m convinced he’s a Staff brain. The Brigade were foolish to miss him. I tried hard to get Griffith to forward application to promote Fergie Captain, but he wouldn’t. He said he had already tried one case and been refused by the Div. Fear it’s no good. They say it would be very hard on Regular Qr. Masters, many of whom have been out since beginning of war, and have a good deal of commissioned service—I quite see the point.
Berry returned last night—a horrible journey—‘Viper’ no cabins, a walk of two miles from steamer to train in dark and wet, a 17 hours journey in a 2nd class, with only one chance of a meal. Mess cart met him at a rail head, 7 miles, and got him here at 8:30 p.m., wearied and tired; he is bright as ever today.
When Dr Berry went on leave on 2 January, his duties were undertaken by Captain Samuel Scott, Officer Commanding ‘C’ Company. He was a doctor by profession and a few days after Dr Berry’s return, Scott’s transfer to the Royal Army Medical Corps took effect. He joined 108th Field Ambulance, where he spent the rest of the war.
Spender full of rumour about the British taking over French bit between 2nd and 3rd Armies, which up to now they (the French) have always opposed. If we do, we shall go up into that bit of line, but when I don’t know. Failing that, or till that, we shall stay here making huts and such like rot. Lovely day, turned colder to-night, and blowing hard. Brig. has a sort of Field Day to-morrow for officers, no men—a trench attack—ought to be instructive. Staff grouse at their poor quarters. I told then it’s time they did a little roughing it. Got in 1-cwt yesterday. Nugent came round this morning when I was out, Cather took him to the bombing, but he was in a hurry. Griffith came yesterday. Am sending Scott out to ‘A’ Company, as medical adviser. He is still waiting orders. The Havre journey home and out is a nightmare.
We had a long morning at G’s scheme—slow but instructive. Didn’t get back till 2:45 p.m., cold wind, but no rain luckily. Lots of hanging about which was boresome. G is off on leave on Sunday, I hear. Primate holds a service here at 11.00 a.m., Sunday for us, 13th and 12th [Royal Irish Rifles] We had to send 15 miles for wood today. Stronge borrowed a country waggon, put in 6 horses, and brought in 4 tons of wood. We also unexpectedly got about a ton of coal. It takes 4 waggons of coke to last a week. So we are going to try country wagons next week. Pratt tried suppers here but the men won’t look at them, funnily enough. Coffee shop taking 170 francs a day. It’s very hard to get things out of the Ordnance, and they say there is a serious shortage of such things as knives, forks, spoons, badges, clasp knives, and other metal goods, and strict economy must be exercised; the things cannot be got. Leather also, and repairs of boots, I cannot extract out of them, and we are getting behind with the repairs of boots. Can’t get any men on parade. ‘A’ Company away, large numbers of other companies employed on hutting schemes, for which we can’t get any materials—wood, nails, canvas, or tools. Tried to get some hammers and saws in A_____ [Abbeville] yesterday. You never saw such stuff—toy saws, feeble hatchets, and ponderous hammers. The band has had a great furnishing up under the Padre. New instruments, music, and drum painted, and new cords, at an outlay of £25—about. They have improved enormously on their playing.
A busy day, tho’ the Primate never came. He has got hung up at Folkestone, owing to submarines. Fergie says a pal Quartermaster of his, at Dover, told him we had got two Hun subs (taken one and sunk one), and that he saw the taken one at Dover, one of their newest, whose machinery had gone wrong and could neither move nor sink. Our new Corps Commander insists on training being carried out, so we are to begin on Monday with company training, and then two weeks brigade and division training; after that, about the middle of March, we are to go into the line, relieving the VII Corps. Cavan, I believe, is excellent, but it’s quite impossible to build huts and do regular company training at the same time. Our men have been at it for 18 months. We have also to find officers for the New Armies. At present I have 10 officers away on duties, leaving one Captain and one Sub [subaltern] with each company! I am to dine at Div. H.Q. on Friday, to meet the Primate.