Lieutenant J E Gibson

Lieutenant J E Gibson

4.00 p.m. Got in here—Varennes—about 1 p.m. Small huts, absolutely without any equipment; luckily I have my bed and chair, and the day is lovely. Water scarce. Cooking arrangements primitive; rather crowded. Pratt, Padre, Cather and I in a small hut—no tables or chairs. A regular return to camp life, which will be healthy, though not so comfortable as billets. 16 casualties yesterday altogether. Padre went to see the wounded today. Very hot on the march. Men felt their packs, which they hadn’t carried for so long. Fergie, and indeed everyone, working hard. We shall soon have the place comfortable, I believe. The huts are roofed with sacking which I fear will not keep out the rain. Road very congested with all sorts of troops moving in relief. Saw Bull en route, grousing at his accommodation, which seems very similar to ours, in a neighboring village. Young Gibson is all right, though his head is still bound up.


Charlie came and wandered about and kept me for two hours. Cannot find a Bde. Major. I suggested George Bruce; says if he has to take one from the Div. he will take him. They have found me a nice billet in the village, a little way off, but if rain comes on this camp will be very bad. Hooper is now moving my kit. The billet is owned by a dear old woman. Such a nice tidy kitchen garden. Berry has just got orders to attend a course in the X Corps, preparatory to appointment as D.A.D.M.S. [Deputy Assistant Director Medical Services] I fear he will not return to us. I’m awfully sorry he’s going, but he’s done splendid as Reg. M.O. [Medical Officer] in the trenches, and has earned a cushy job. Mrs. B. will be pleased. My kit has grown fearfully. Hooper suggests I have three fat packages besides bed and chair. Awful excitement because we dug sanitary arrangements in an old woman’s orchard, which happened to be grazing ground. You might think from the fuss that the Huns had broken through.

9:30 p.m. Here I am cosily settled in my new abode. Great comfort to get back to a table. One is curiously lost without this article of furniture. Stronge is getting restless again. I’m sure he wants to go to the R.F.C. It is very peaceable here; a little off the main street, and the window looking away from it on to a nice tidy garden. Very pleasant to have some privacy again. This training is going to be rather strenuous. They want us to work on Sundays, but I’m jibbing. We are practicing the attack from trenches—a flood of literature on the subject to be assimilated; all the Generals with different ideas. On the march here yesterday I met a bus load of Gunners—Tilney, Stirling, and others, going toward the line. I don’t know what for. Shall try and get over to see 1st Battalion tomorrow.


Had a long morning practicing the attacks and doing some drill. Cold hail shower came on during the entertainment. As the men were in shirt sleeves, fearing great heat, they felt cold. I have written today for Shill. to be sent out. We are playing 1st Battalion at football at 4.00 p.m. Their fifes and drums have already turned up. We beat 1st Battalion yesterday 2 goals to love. Bad ground. A good many came over and their drums discoursed music to us. Rather harrying day, what with training schemes, which alter from day to day; a statement from Charlie re attack, which lasted, with arguments, from 12.30-2.30 p.m.; then a re-allotment of huts, as we have to turn out of one; then inoculation for about 100 men and about 12 officers, which upset schemes as they may not be touched for about 48 hours, so that wants re-arranging. Got very cloudy and looks like rain, cooler. Sgt. Hughes, from 1st Battalion, came to see me yesterday. Wants to be transferred to us. We are close to Div. H.Q., only 1½ miles.


Two Bdes back, and one in line. Stronge off to an Etonian dinner at Amiens. I’m delighted to see Bull has got a D.S.O. He richly deserves it. We had service at 10.30 a.m. in the open. Had a lazy morning and a bath, but since church have been busy. Am walking over to see Cole-Hamilton when I’ve finished this.


A showery day. Vanston has pushed off with gastritis. Berry went this morning. New medico—Burrows—come. Am sending home some winter kit. Many of the officers sick today from inoculation. Saw Oliver for a minute today. Hessey came back this morning, from leave. Shall go round with him. Went over to congratulate Bull this p.m. Had a long morning practicing the attack. Luckily no rain, but nine officers and 100 men away with inoculation.

Stronge returned from Etonians’ dinner 2.00 a.m. Rawlinson got it up for 4th Army. 168 there. Pak, Bob Maxwell, etc. Many Generals and Staff. Heavy showers all night.

9.45 p.m. Had a long bukh with Hessey this p.m. His mess is just opposite my billet. Turned cold and is raining again.


2.00 p.m. Such a wet drenching a.m. Bull had a raid last night. 30 went back into the line for it; not very successful as they only saw three Bosches, who ran away underground. We blew up five of their dug outs, I believe, but I haven’t seen any of the 12th yet. They now want to take away the men’s cafes. They’ve written them hell! No successor to Smyth yet. Don’t count on July leave. I’m sure leave will be stopped sometime this month. Mess, Orderly Room, etc., are rather uncomfy and difficult here, no place to sit or write. No chairs or tables, and a leaky roof. Cooking all in the open. This weather when one’s driven inside is dreadful. Charlie tossed as to whether Bull or I should go and do the raid. I felt rather thankful I lost. Bull’s life has been a burden to him ever since (nearly a month ago), Corps, Div., and Bde. Generals all with different plans and wanting something else tried or something else done different. Rather harried today; all sorts of reports to send and the general muddle which prevails.

10.00 p.m. It turned out a fine p.m. and we had a ramble with Charlie over the laid out dummy Bosche trenches. He was vague and we spent 2½ hours and not much knowledge gained. It’s deucedly cold this evening, after the rain. An order came in this p.m. no leave to be granted to officers above the rank of Coy. Commander, and I expect that will be stopped soon. I hope to get ‘At.’ away on 12th, and perhaps Stronge and then Charlie J., which will about finish the leave for the present. Saw Bull. His raiding party were got by shrapnel as they were returning. They came on a tunnel leading to our lines, which they blew up; looked like a mine shaft. Instead of letting us train quietly in essentials, such as bayonet fighting and musketry, they are having senseless Field Days. This morning was one of the most depressing ones we’ve had out here. Such mud and discomfort for the men.


The raid conducted by 12th Royal Irish Rifles was against Railway Sap, which elements of that Battalion would attack again on 1 July.


3.45 p.m. Had a Bde. day from 10.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m., fairly near at hand; fine except for one bad hail shower. Weather unsettled; such a cold night and the men without blankets. The ground very heavy.

9.45 p.m. We seem to be getting your rain. After a fine p.m. it has begun to rain steadily. Holt came over to see me today, and brought the news of K’s loss in [HMS] Hampshire. Cruel luck for his boat to strike a mine. I feel he had really completed his great work and died perhaps at his zenith. With fuller accounts to hand the Battle Cruiser Squadron seem to have lived up to the best traditions of the Navy, and Beatty to have acted with the old Nelson spirit. Really splendid and inspiring reading. Holt is attached to this Division, and has already been strafed by Oliver! The brutes have cut down leave to six days, and halved the number allowed away. G.N. very affable. Pratt and I dine there tonight. Wonder what will be the outcome of the Irish Question?


HMS Hampshire

HMS Hampshire

At about 9.30pm on 5 June 1916, HMS Hampshire was travelling alone in heavy seas from Scapa Flow to Russia when she hit a mine off Orkney. She was carrying Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, and his staff on a diplomatic mission. The cruiser sank quickly with the loss of over 660 men; only 12 members of her crew survived.


3 p.m. Not a bad day, but not very instructive. Talked to Morland. Rain began again 2.00 p.m. Saw and spoke to Rawlinson. He has aged a good deal. Oliver droned for ¾ hour, platitudes. Morland short and to the point. I hear from Ricardo that Repington is very optimistic as to an early end. Am skeptical, but R. has not been optimistic in the past. It’s bitterly cold this afternoon, and hard to keep warm. I hear Rosy Smyth’s 2nd in Command, (Brush) has succeeded Hessey. I don’t see any reason for depression over the war; things are going on all right. They are making frantic efforts at Verdun and Ypres, but even if they fall the Huns have paid an awful price, and the line is not broken. The Naval Battle was, I believe, a far greater success for us, and a blow to Germany than we make out. Much of their Fleet is crippled and they’ve lost large numbers of sailors, which they can ill afford; and the Ruskey’s are pushing ahead. All is well, but the end is not yet.


Huts are improving; have got waterproof sheets to cover them, and ablution places and basins, with brick floor and pathway; good incinerators, laundry and baths working, but after rain the whole place is a sea of mud. It rained up to 5.00 a.m. and the place was awful; now dried up fairly. Pak laid me 60 frc. to 40 that the push will take place before the end of June. I think I shall win his 60 frc. Am sending C.M.J. on leave on 17th, ‘At.’ on 12th, if its not stopped before. Rode home from field Day with Holt. There was not much strafing. Such a wet morning today. Just off to Field Day. Hessey has got 110th Bde. Very sorry to lose him. Rotten arrangement. Rained all night; fine this a.m.


Everyone got soaked. I enclose list of wounded from Lurgan and Portadown. Three bales sock—500 in all—arrived June 3rd. No word of B.M. [Brigade Major] yet. Dined with Oliver; most affable. I put one or two things strongly to him and he was quite of my opinion. Got in some good ones to Singleton and Comyn. Oliver said he would like to wash his feet in the Rhine, and burn a Hun village. The camp is a sea of mud. Remember when the Push comes we shall be cut off probably for a week, owing to bombardment; no letters in or out, or rations or messengers. We are laying up a store of food, so you mustn’t be alarmed at not hearing. I have no idea when it will come off, many people think soon, and others are skeptical, but preparations go on busily. Such a bore this daily attacking trenches on someone else’s ground. Our attack place has not been marked out properly yet. I don’t take much interest in it. I fancy we shall get into the Bosche trenches easily enough and without much loss, but staying there will be costly. Have written D’Arcy asking him to be careful as to whom he allows to come out as chaplains from the Diocese, pointing out how wonderful is the influence of the right sort, like Halahan, but what harm to religion can be done by one not suited. I don’t think any of them except Halahan go into the trenches.