Snow in night, about one inch lying, but now sunny again, and not so cold. New G.S. O.2 has arrived, a Sikh—forgot his name. We have been ordered to comb out Bde. H.Q. people, and I have started on the job, con amore. Have only been able to return 12 to Battalions so far, but hope to comb out some more. One great boon in these H.Q. is we are only about a mile from Bn. H.Q. instead of 3½ miles at the last place. Also its down a good road, under cover the whole way.
Still bitterly cold, and trying to snow. Last night the coldest we have had. G.H.Q. has all the appts. out here. 15 to 20 degs. frost here every night.
Another sunny cold day and hard frost. Pratt will be in command of 109th [Brigade] when he returns. Q.R. goes on leave at once. We are in a brick building fortunately, but the huts are perishing, and the line damnable. Bde. went in Sat., so you can calculate when 9th go in. Luckily there is no snow on the roads, which are as hard as iron and dusty, but snow lies on the fields. Went and saw 9th this a.m. and transport. There is a good deal of mange about. We have none so far. Your letters now come in 48 hours!
Another hard frost and sunny day, with N.E. wind. Had a long walk round the line, started at 9.30 a.m. and got back at 1.30 p.m. Very useful. Line quiet last night and this morning. Did you see the Home Honours?
Lieutenant Colonel Blacker was referring to the Honours list in connection with the Dublin rising of the previous year, which was published in the London Gazette on 24 January 1917. In addition, mentions in despatches were published in the London Gazette on 25 January 1917. The former list was notable for the award of the Military Medal to two female civilians.
[Neuve Eglise, Brigade Headquarters]
I left early in Nugent’s car to attend a conference of Brigadiers and came on here, where I saw Bn. Commanders, at 2.00 p.m., and so have been busy all day. All leave is stopped for the present; there is a good deal of congestion of railways, owing to movement of troops. Weather still bitter. Quite a comfortable Bde. H.Q., and I have a nice room. Ricardo is seedy and in bed. Am rather weary.
Another bitter day, but sunny. The 9th moved back to their old huts today, but can’t go into the line till end of next week. They looked very well. We move back tomorrow, about ¾ mile from our late H.Q. Mudie, G.S.O.2 [General Staff Officer Grade 2], has just been posted as G.S.O.2, G.H.Q., and is off today.
It’s very nice everyone wanting me to get the Bde. I feel prouder of that than anything. They are all so nice and easy to get on with. I told them what the Gen. said. I went out to the 9th today. Saw Brew, who seemed very well. There’s a general combing out of back areas, i.e., Div. and Bde able bodies to come back and do their bit in front. A very good thing. Frost still holds and very severe.
All news from Germany now gives evidence of the pinch. Yes, I really think this year will see the end of it all. Saw 11th and 13th [Royal Irish Rifles] this a.m., and talked about the new line and my views. Another bitter day, but sunny. Fergie went out to the Base today on a tour of inspections.
Bitter cold. Such a hard frost last night. Started off at 9.00 a.m. this morn and went round our new line with Brig. 107th; then lunched with him and so home; a very nice fellow. They’ve improved the line enormously, it’s in far better condition than our last bit, and no rivers to contend with, so easier kept right. But on the left is a good deal more strafed by the Bosche. It was a lovely sunny day with a bitter N.E. wind, which cut through one in a car. A pleasant dinner with Wilson last night, with ‘C’ mess of the Corps.
The area visited by Lieutenant Colonel Blacker was the left sub-sector of the Divison’s front opposite Ontario Farm, a large German strong-point on the lower ground west of Messines, and slightly to the north of that held previously by 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers along the River Douve. The battalion headquarters for this sub-sector was at St Quinten Cabaret, about 1,500 yards from the front line trenches and just south of the nearly ruined village of Wulverghem. The Battalion would take over this area in early-February.
Nice day, frost, and clear. There have been inter-Battalion contests going on for the last ten days, in (1) football, (2) team running, (3) bayonet fighting, and (4) boxing. The finals in 2 and 3 were run off today. Unfortunately we lost against 12th in 1st round of footer. However, in this morning’s show the Battalion showed up splendidly. We move from here Friday or Saturday. Am going to prospect tomorrow. I have managed for us to work with the 12th by special request of the 12th and 9th. Sergt. Johnston was in charge of the running team, and was splendid. They all finished together as if on parade, and did the 3 miles in 27 minutes.