Have fixed up leave all right, and leave here mid-day Sunday. Must leave London Wednesday, April 12. Leave begins April 3, Monday. Hope to pick up Bill.
THURSDAY, MARCH 30th
Such a snow storm yesterday, and hard frost to follow, but lovely sunny warm day today; snow gone. Bosche ‘plane came over this morning about 9.00 a.m. Left us alone, but dropped bombs on three villages near.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 29th
Had a Battalion Parade, band, etc., and march past in a.m., and am going to M_____ [Mesnil] now to see ‘A’ and ‘B’. Very cold wind today and threatening snow. Have been inspecting the town, or village, today with a large suite, consisting of Pratt, Cather, Fergie, Berry and C_____, who is Town Commandant. Owing to many troops just staying the night and passing on, many of the billets are filthy, and much cleaning up has to be done outside our own area; roads cleaned up and repaired, etc. We are eight in H.Q. mess now, quite a cheery party.
Went over to see ‘A’ and ‘B’. today at M_____ [Mesnil]. They’re fairly comfortably fixed up in cellars and are on working parties every night. Saw Gen. about leave. He was in favour of my going at once. Got caught in a bad snow storm on our way back, and the ground is again covered with snow; very disappointing. A letter from Queen Alexandra’s Sec’y., Streatfield [sic], saying the Queen was sending some comforts to the Battalion, and she wished the acknowledgement of them sent direct to her.
TUESDAY, MARCH 28th
‘A’ and ‘B’ Coy just gone. I sent by post today the roll of men, with addresses, etc. H.Q. mess will be full again. All sorts of rumours about contemplated moves and pushes, today for the first time for many weeks, but a big forward movement is meant, I believe. We had eight officers of 11th E. Yorks and two Coys here last night, none of which I pay much heed to. Big business moving Fergie’s stores, he leaves nothing behind; even the bricks for the fireplace to heat the water for the baths he has brought. As I have often said, it’s very tickling to one’s vanity to hear the nice things that are said of one, but I realize more and more how much I have left undone, and how much I ought to do; it is imperative to be always up and doing.
MONDAY, MARCH 27th
Plans again changed for the better. Two Coys, ‘C’ and ‘D’, stay here. Two Coys go to M_____ [Mesnil] tomorrow. Fergie’s transport come here. Rain in night, drizzling snow. Thanks for parcel of gifts. You’ve done splendidly. Padre is sending your list and letter of thanks to each of the local newspapers, which he thinks will be appreciated, showing they have been received. Very peaceful here, haven’t heard a gun since we came in. Great rest! Cinema again tonight for the men. Am trying to get men bathed. Two Coys of the incoming Div. stay here tonight on their way into the line, but where I cannot think, as the place is packed.
SUNDAY, MARCH 26th
A cold sleety morning has turned finer and warmer. I had a bit of cold, so stayed in bed. It’s nothing much, and I’m feeling much better. Smyth came over here this a.m. We move on Tuesday. We go to M_____ [Mesnil] three Coys and one Coy about a mile this side—no place for transport or stores. Two battalions will be in M_____ [Mesnil], which will be a fearful squash, the other battalion being one of 109th, resting from the line. 107th goes back to P_____ [Puchevillers] to construct a railway. After a fortnight we all change round—we to the line, 109th back, and 107th in support. That’s the present idea but doubtless it will be changed again many times. I daresay it will be all right, we always fall on our feet. Had a pleasant dinner with Gunners. We got the Div. cinema show over for the men. Two performances 5:30 and 7:30 p.m., and again Monday. We had the King’s Review. Very good! The white pony looked very well. The Battalion was in excellent line. The show lasted 1¼ hours. I have a comfy bed. The sun is coming out, so trust this is winter’s last effort. This goes in R.A. bag [the Royal Artillery mail bag].
On 29 March a readjustment of areas of responsibility would take place with the introduction of 31st Division into the line. 36th (Ulster) Division was allocated a shorter, two-battalion frontage astride the River Ancre holding the line Hamel-Thiepval, with the other two battalions of the forward brigade in reserve. This arrangement would last until the attack on 1 July.
SATURDAY, MARCH 25th
Snow fell up to about 5.00 p.m. yesterday and made trenches vile. Fine for relief, luckily. Today, fine but very cold, and no coal so far. Leave stopped again. The French counter attacks were very costly in life. Redmond’s shamrock has never come. Nothing more about the move, but if it comes off we shan’t go far. The gas helmets are absolute protection, and we each have two. Draft of 28 came from Base yesterday, making us up to 991. Many of them (21) those who had gone away sick. Some useful ones amongst them. I dine with R.A. [Royal Artillery] tonight. The relief didn’t begin till 7:40 p.m., and was completed at 8:45, and we got away at 9.00 p.m. Had some tea with Fergie and got here at 10:45. Berry, Shill, and I walked out together and rode on here. We’ve got the Div. cinema here tonight. I hope to see King’s Review of Ulster Div. Am promoting Hughes Sgt.
FRIDAY, MARCH 24th
A cold night, began to snow about 2.00 a.m., and lying about two inches deep now. Hateful, as it’s fast becoming a slush in the trenches. Glad we’re going out tonight, not coming in. A quiet night, so far quiet this morning. Hope there’ll be no more snow, but the skies are heavy, though it’s thawing now. A draft of 30 and one officer arrive today, I believe. Don’t know who. Must sally forth and have a look round, and plough through the slush. Luckily I brought in my long gum boots.
THURSDAY, MARCH 23rd
Dull and beginning to snow. The party of nine Officers and 40 N.C.O.s came in at 11.00 p.m. No valises or kits. They must have been jolly cold in the night. They went to Egypt in December, and have not seen any fighting or trench life. They have much to learn. A quiet night, but a certain amount of shelling is going on now. Turned much colder. The snow passed off and never lay, but it was leaden and dull today. Fairly quiet except for the usual morning and evening Hate. No casualties, though some burst on the back of the trenches. We move out tomorrow evening back to H_____ [Hedauville] again, I’m glad to say, but how long we shall stay there I don’t know, but we shan’t move, I hear.
The visitors were from 10th (Service) Battalion, The East Yorkshire Regiment (1st Hull) in 92nd Brigade, 31st Division, which had arrived in France from the Suez defences.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 22nd
A quiet night and morning so far, but a steady drizzle has begun, which is converting the trench into a sticky glue. Menaul found out some good information Monday night, but last night was too dark to find out anything. We (guns) fired on their wire in p.m. Had two M.G. [machine guns] laid on the broken part, and at night, when they started to mend it, we let off into them and kept it up at irregular intervals through the night. Berry got a smack on the shoulder yesterday from a small bit of shrapnel, but it didn’t even tear his coat, and he has only a small bruise. Padre looked in here yesterday evening; he had had an active day. Went to H_____ [Hamel] and M_____ [Mesnil] in the morning and put up three crosses to our men in the cemeteries there, and then came on here and went round all the men.
Five officers and 20 N.C.O.s came in today from 31st Div. (who take over this bit from us) to get a hang of the line for 72 hours, and then another party comes in. As we have barely enough room for our officers this is a nuisance. I have to put one up here. The relief passed off all right and quietly. The incoming Battalion were to have sent 10 Officers and 40 N.C.O.s at 3:30 p.m. They haven’t come yet, and only reached E_____ [Englebelmer] at 3:30 p.m. We are hard pushed for accommodation for them. Just heard the party will be here at 11.00 p.m.! Drizzling all day and trenches very sticky.
The Brigade comes bodily out of the line and has to be clear of the area by the 27th. We move back somewhere in support, the 109th [Brigade] remaining in. Don’t know where, but hope not a long trek. Awful nuisance moving Qr. Mr’s stores, baths, laundry, etc. Menaul was out again on patrol, 3rd night in succession. Did good work. Made him take night off tomorrow. He is training 20 Battalion Scouts. He has found snipers’ posts and other useful points. It was inky dark last night and tonight. Very lucky so far, only one casualty, and that a slight one. The men have done good work, and this bit of line is vastly improved in every way since we took it over. A quiet day, except for the daily dose of H.E.s and whizz-bangs from 3.00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.