A foggy day, cold and raw, after a frost; roads not passable till mid-day. Went out to see 9th in p.m., just back. Seem quite comfortable. Padre away taking services. The Gosford cigarettes did come, and were acknowledged. I will write a note. Went round the cemetery with Duke in the morning; over 4,000 graves—British. Saw Lyness’s and Crymble’s, also Corbally’s, Capt R.F.A. Duke goes on leave tomorrow, am sorry. Young Allen of 12th came in to dinner last night; he is Bde. Grenade Officer; a very nice boy and capable. He got an M.C.
Rode over to see 11th and 13th [Royal Irish Rifles]. Fine day, but roads very slippery. Attended a lecture by Lushington on ‘Barrage,’ very interesting. Brought him in to tea afterwards and had a gunner talk. H.Q. mess has dwindled to six. Shall go and see 9th tomorrow morning, and very likely stay to lunch. Hope to see Shill. and Padre.
Spent morning with 9th, and lunched with them. They are all very happy and comfortable. Most interesting lecture this p.m. by Chief of Staff of the Army on Staff Duties. Simply splendid; only wish more staff officers had attended. Do you see Repington wants 60 more Divisions? Have sent out for envelopes; I always forget I’m living in town.
Padre has settled to stay with the Battalion and feels sure he can manage it; that’s a great blessing. A horrible day; snow has never ceased falling since early morn, and, of course, is lying pretty thick. I couldn’t ride, so have been studying defence scheme, pamphlets, etc.
Reverend Hallahan had been appointed Senior Divisional Chaplain on 28 November 1916, which should have resulted in him moving to Divisional Headquarters. He managed to remain with the Battalion, however, until March 1917 when he left to attend a course of instruction at the Chaplains’ School, after which he finally relocated to Divisional Headquarters.
Been out all day. Left by car at 9.00 a.m., and returned 5.00 p.m. Attended a gas demonstration, about 25 miles off. Rather interesting. Lecture in morning, and show in afternoon. It appears that we have inflicted a good deal more loss on the Bosche by gas than is generally known. Still it’s a dirty game. Please send 500 more socks at once. Goodwin, who commands 12th [Royal Irish Rifles], came with us today; cheery nice fellow. Snow all day.
Fergie’s dinner went off splendidly. We sat down 43, of whom about six were guests. Bde. Staff, Berry, 1st Bn., man in R.F.C. here, etc. Quite a good dinner, at 7 francs a head, in a private room at a café. Mess Sergt. and waiters assisted. Toasts—“The King,” “President French Republic,” “Our Guests,” proposed by me, responded to by Col. Clarke [sic]; “The Battalion,” proposed by Col. Clarke [sic], responded to by Fergie; “The C.O.” proposed by Berry, in a charming speech, and drunk with musical honours. Of course far too flattering. A few songs and finally “Auld Lang Syne,” “Marseillaise,” and National Anthem. We dispersed at 11.00 p.m. We got a ‘bus to bring them in and take them back. Snow still covers the land, and the outlook is very wintry, but a thaw is on and everything is very slushy. The glass has been steadily rising for two days, so I hope no more snow. A man is to be tried for disclosing his whereabouts; got a French girl to address the envelope, stamp it and post it in the civil post office.
The dinner was held in the Hotel du Canon d’Or in Bailleul (later destroyed by shell fire) on the evening of 18 January and the guests were: Major G F Cavendish-Clarke, Staff Captain, 108th Brigade, Lieutenant R T Campbell and Lieutenant E A Godson, who were attached to the staff of 108th Brigade (from 12th Royal Irish Rifles and 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers respectively); Brey Lazart, the 108th Brigade staff interpreter; Captain J G E FitzGerald MC who had left the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers in January 1916 to join the Machine Gun Corps; Captain W S S Berry RAMC, the Battalion Medical Officer; and Lieutenant J Butler MC, an officer of the 1st Battalion attached to the Royal Flying Corps.
(This list should replace that found in ‘Blacker’s Boys’, Chapter 4, p 106.)
Hard frost last night and bitter N.E. wind today. Wore chamois waistcoat for the first time.
Bob Maxwell just come in. Been out all day. Rode to 9th in a.m., lunched, and walked back with Shill. Roads like iron, splendid for walking. There are still 100 who have been out all the time, and not been home. Its perishing cold tonight, and my diminutive French stove has gone out. John Keane turned up for dinner in great form, and we had a good bukh.
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.
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.