MONDAY, JULY 31st

Another glorious day, but so hot. We are relieved tonight. A lately joined officer went out in front without telling sentries, and was shot dead. Poor fellow; his own fault, and all through keenness. The relief tonight will, I fear, be very late. It doesn’t begin before 10.00 p.m., and the 8th R.I.R. [Royal Irish Rifles], who come in, are new to this bit. Our rest place where we go tonight are huts in a wood, on a steep slope, with deep excavations, in case of shelling, to hold 800 men. My brain is woolly with heat. So far no casualties this tour except that of last night, and one Sgt. grazed. We have seen very few wasps here, but mosquitoes are bad. I’ve had a very peaceful time this tour, and the surroundings most pleasant. Personally I regret going out, but the men in front line want a change. I’ve bathed them all twice, and everyone has a new shirt. Every one walking about in shirt sleeves, including self. I hear three wounded ones in London are quite enjoying themselves—young Shill., Gibson and Jackson.


Footnote

The officer killed was Second Lieutenant Hugh Henderson Dunwoody, who had joined the Battalion on 20 June. In the early hours of 31 July, he was on trench duty. Privates Robert Rowntree and Robert Seaton manned an isolated sentry post and at about 2.00am Second Lieutenant Dunwoody visited their position. He had been there for about ten minutes when he thought he heard something in front, and Private Rowntree was given permission to investigate. Having crawled out twenty yards, nearly to the wire, Rowntree suddenly heard a noise to his left and saw a man with a revolver raised in his hand. He fired once, the man dropped, and Private Rowntree returned to the post claiming to have “shot a Boche”. Unfortunately, he had shot Second Lieutenant Dunwoody who, according to Private Seaton, had followed Private Rowntree out of the post. Private Seaton saw him shot, and when the body was recovered soon afterwards, it was confirmed that the twenty-seven-year-old officer had been shot through the head and had died instantly. No blame was attached to Private Rowntree. Second Lieutenant Dunwoody was buried in Ration Farm (La Plus Douve) Annexe.

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SUNDAY, JULY 30th

Another roasting day. Trying to find out about Lennon, from Bleary, also Oliver writes about Baird, from Cavan. Perhaps you can find out something, from wounded men home, possibly.

4.00 p.m. Just got back from service, in shirt sleeves, down by the stream.

SATURDAY, JULY 29th

Captain P C Radbourne

Captain P C Radbourne

We are to be relieved on Monday, and go to that wood where we were for one night before we came in here—a dirty place! Personally we are much more comfy here, but it’s a change for the men, who are not comfortable in the front line in this heat. No shade, and heaps of flies. A farewell letter from Spender, who has gone as G.S.O.1., 4th Army, with rank of Lt. Colonel. He is now with XV Corps in the thick of it. Saw P. today in the trenches. He said the ‘Russkies’ were doing well. If only they could make Austria sue for peace the Huns would be done. See from a German Col.s letter, in Friday’s ‘Times’ that they have suffered badly. M.G. fire was not so bad last night. Think the Huns were relieving. The heat is making people cranky, and is rather trying. We here are really well off, and have shade and air. Drinking water is a great difficulty. It has to be brought about three miles and then carried up to the line, about ¾ of a mile, in petrol tins—our bit is quite short, only about 400 yards, instead of 1,200, which means much less fatigue. The Bosche has just started with 5.9’s on the dump, about 300 yards behind us. Of course, nothing there at this time.

10.30 p.m.  M.G. fire not so bad tonight. The new Captain, one Radbourne, a Colonial, was with Botha in S.W. African campaign. Shill. knew him in 10th. I have put him under S. to learn trench routine. They’ve sent back my application for V.C. for Cather, to put it stronger, and send in quintuplicate! They are the limit. It’s so hard to write without exaggerations.


Footnotes

The details of German casualties referred to by Lieutenant Colonel Blacker were contained in the diary of Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Bedall, the commanding officer of 16th Bavarian Infantry Regiment, who was captured on 13 July. The contents of the diary were abridged in the ‘Times’ on Friday 28 July.

‘Captured Colonel’s Diary. Bavarian Losses on the Somme.’ (28 July 1916). The Times. p 7.

FRIDAY, JULY 28th

A lovely day, but hot; trenches getting smelly and full of flies. M.G. fire at night very irksome. At present they haven’t bothered us with shell fire. The trenches are only breast works and would crumble away. We are on the bank of a small stream, and I have rigged up a bath-house, found boilers and fireplace in working order—so we bath men each day. I bathed yesterday; splendid bath. I captured Shill. to come down this a.m., and he’s bathing now, and is staying to lunch. They are having a bad time in front line, and are very crowded. They’ve sent 22 of our men, who were slightly wounded on July 1st, to 2 R.Ir.Rif [2nd Royal Irish Rifles]. I got a letter from them imploring to be brought back. I have written in an official. The men are settling down fairly now. Sgt. Johnston is perfectly all right notwithstanding all he went through. Luckily the Bosche gives us credit for a good deal more astuteness than we possess.

THURSDAY, JULY 27th

It was Sgt. C’s evidence that I wrote to Mr. Atkinson. I don’t think the Border Regt. would know. Identity discs are taken from the dead (or should be) and sent to the Regt. or base. Of course one doesn’t know what the Huns do with them. The relief was quiet; passed off all right, and was very easy, being so near. M.G. fire at night is bad, it’s hard to move about anywhere, but the days are very quiet. H.Q. very good and well hidden; sandbag dug-outs. The Bosche has just begun his afternoon hate; heavy stuff on our left. A gas alarm last night about midnight, and every one ‘stood to’, but it was away on our right, and didn’t come near us. Though 500 of the old lot are left they are mostly employed. The slightly wounded, who are back, are ‘nervy’. It will take time before they are all right. The cream went over the parapet on July 1st. Three new officers just come. One blessing of this place, one can sit outside in the air, not always underground.

I do not go up to the front side at night. I find I cannot see anything, and only stumble about and do no good. Many interruptions, and have a minute to finish. Padre has come up today, I’m glad to say. We could find no room for him at first, but have squeezed him in. Fergie said “Padre is just gasping to come up!” We are 513 strong about, but what with men employed, etc., only 200 trench strength.


Footnote

The term ’employed’ refers to those men in appointments precluding them from being used in the trenches. This included the men working for the Quartermaster and in the Battalion Transport, clerks, some of the signallers, etc, and men detached to posts in the rear area and the Base Depot.

TUESDAY, JULY 25th

Another warm close day. Mosquitoes are bad here. These constant and sudden changes always mean articles mislaid and lost. My indelible pencil has gone now. Charlie wants me to move back and take turns with Bull in commanding both Battalions. I find it more restful here, and the men are here. Behind they worry one all day, and every day. Quiet, except for a burst of shrapnel over a party of ours whom they spotted digging a new trench. No damage done except one man grazed by a bullet and back at duty. M.G. fire very active again this evening.