MONDAY, MAY 1st

Woodbrook House

Woodbrook House

Another glorious day and very warm. Walked to H_____ [Hamel] and saw Bull and Brig. Yesterday was quiet except for a Hun strafe of about half an hour S. [south] of this some way. Saw Sunday’s ‘Daily Mail’. Dublin still seems to be in rebel hands, and 6,000 rebels in Wexford. Am anxious about Woodbrook. Kut has fallen, alas! after a gallant struggle. According to present arrangements we shall remain going in and out in this bit till about 20th, when we go back for a fortnight and then into this bit again. Wonder when letters will get through. Another lot go on leave today. Wonderful tales of rebels shooting women and children; wonder are the U.V. F. doing anything? They should be organised for the Defence of Ulster. I know you’ll let me know all the news you hear.

4.00 p.m.—Your letter of Wednesday just arrived. Great relief. You are evidently more in the dark than we are! 12th sent up S.O.S. signal about 8:45 p.m. Apparently they were being bombarded with trench mortars. However, after quarter hour all was quiet again. You appear to have had very heavy rain, hope you are having this glorious weather now. It banked up for thunder again this evening, but nothing came; the evening is close. We go in again tomorrow for six days.


Footnote

Unlike Carrick Blacker, Woodbrook House is still in use. The photograph is used by permission of the current owner; read about Woodbrook House.

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TUESDAY, MAY 2nd

Close heavy day, with thunder. Rumours about Ireland are numerous. We had a man, L/Corpl. Adams, accidentally shot through the hand yesterday evening.


Footnote

Lance Corporal John Adams recovered from his wound and returned to the Battalion, where he distinguished himself by earning the Military Medal twice—firstly, during the Battle of Langemarck on 16 August 1917 and, secondly, on a raid on 22 July 1918. The story of his time in France and Flanders may be found at ‘Letters from the Front.

Private John Adams, later Sergeant J Adams MM*

Private John Adams, later Sergeant J Adams MM*

WEDNESDAY, MAY 3rd

Monday’s ‘Times’ has a long account of the whole show. It seems to be fairly scotched now. After very heavy thunder showers p.m., the evening turned fine for the relief. We got in without casualty, but they dropped about five small H.E.’s close to Flood’s platoon just behind here, and I thought they were done for. Providentially not a man touched. Relief completed at 10:40 p.m. Very muggy day, but so growing. Have been round a good bit of the line. Of course, mud and water again—pumping, baling and scraping going on. Am tied into the cellar now, as Cather has had to go to M_____ [Martinsart] on a C.M. [Court Martial] Little G is coming to see arrangements for evacuating wounded! He is responsible for such, and it’s the first time he’s been here to see about it. They are trying to charge the Battalion £46 barrack damages while at Bordon. I have written in a snorter, somewhat libellous, I think. I am quite prepared to refuse to pay and go to law. It’s barefaced robbery of the absent, to cover up gross slackness in Barrack Dept. I’ve given them h___ [hell]. The 12th had a fairly heavy doing on Monday night, for half an hour. They kept up a hot rifle fire in return (25,000 rounds), and prevented brother Bosche coming out. Only four men slightly wounded, perfectly marvellous. Numerous cases of life saved by the steel helmets.

THURSDAY, MAY 4th

Yes, the poor police have had a bad time. The Meath affair was tragic. So glad you were able to see so many wives. Very heavy and warm tonight, more thunder about. A quiet afternoon. Sergeant Pollock, in ‘B’ Coy, a splendid fellow, and one of the best Sergeants in the Battalion, was hit in the shoulder by H.E. this p.m., I’m sorry to say. Rather bad, I fear, as he bled a lot, but he was cheery. I earnestly trust he will be all right. Large working parties on again tonight. Menaul out again on patrol, was caught by M.G. fire, and had to lie low. He brought back good information, and had no casualties. One letter opened by censor. The whole thing seems to have collapsed, but at a certain amount of cost. Still warm, but a slightly cooler breeze, but the trenches are warm. Astonishing amount of wet when we are having it roasting. Quite a quiet night and day up to this, and no casualties so far (except Pollock). Had a long trek round the trenches and visited the Battalion on our left. They gave us a slight spraying with whizz-bangs from 11.30 am-12.30 pm, but did no damage. We had a fearful gunner in yesterday from Dundee, and fearfully common, and rather a fool to boot, and he snored! I had to strafe him heavily. He wandered round the trenches by himself and asked stupid questions till he was run in as suspected spy! This successful raid was by the Div. on our right, and the unsuccessful one by the Div. on our left. Menaul did a successful patrol last night.


Footnote

The ‘Meath affair’ referred to by Lieutenant Colonel Blacker was the attack on the Royal Irish Constabulary barracks at Ashbourne in County Meath and the ambush of the police vehicles that brought reinforcements. Eight men of the Royal Irish Constabulary and one of the vehicle drivers were killed: County Inspector Alexander Gray, District Inspector Harry Smyth, 54677 Sergeant John Shanaher, 58036 Sergeant John Young, 64900 Constable James Cleary, 66800 Constable James Gormley, 54582 Constable James Hickey, 67072 Constable Richard McHale and Mr. Andrew Keep. Also killed were two Irish Volunteers— Jack Crennigan and Thomas Rafferty—and two commercial travellers— James Joseph Carroll and his colleague Gerard St. John Hogan.

FRIDAY, MAY 5th

Another very warm, close day. Some trench mortars were put in to our line between 4.00 a.m. and 5.00 a.m. No casualties, but one landed in a trench and turned it up. I got the Hows. [howitzers] on, which silenced it. It was lovely out at that time. Rumour says many people from the North who went to Fairyhouse, all missing. They seem to have at last settled for Nat. Service. A somewhat lively artillery day on both sides; no damage to us any way, so far.


Footnotes

1. Fairyhouse in County Meath was the scene of the Irish Grand National on Easter Monday, 24 April 1916, when the rebellion began in Dublin. The race had attracted nearly 25,000 spectators from all over the island, including a significant number of military officers from Dublin. When news of the rebellion arrived at Fairyhouse transport was commandeered to get the military personnel back to Dublin, stranding many of the spectators. 

2. The Military Service Act 1916, introducing conscription, came into force on 2 March 1916. Married men became subject to the Act in May 1916. The Act in this form did not apply in Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man. 

 

SATURDAY, MAY 6th

A heavy strafe from our guns 12.30-1.30 a.m. Considerable noise. Night dark and windy and some rain. Much cooler today, and wind. Practically no retaliation on us. Y.C.V.s had about 25 casualties last night in the return strafe on the wood, in which nine were killed. A fairly quiet day, but some whizz-bangs into the village this p.m., which wounded two R.A. [Royal Artillery] We had no casualties, I’m thankful to say. A new trench is being dug tonight joining up across a bend in our line and shortening it. 400 men on it in two reliefs. Menaul got in from patrol. Met nothing.

Y.C.V.s had one officer killed and 11 men, and some 20 wounded in last night’s strafe. Rain held off all day, and it was pleasantly cool, a light shower about 9.00 p.m. Thank goodness, Nat. Service at last. Oh, that they may include Ireland. Wonder who succeeds Birrell? The ‘Times’ has something in about calling in all arms. Wonder what about U.V.F. We are trying a service here in lines tomorrow. Did a lot of walking today, the weather was so delightful and cool and nice after the stifling heat.

2.00 p.m.—Went for a long trek round with Pratt, round the whole line. Inspected the new trench cut last night; ground hard and they only got down 3 feet. Will want another 2 nights’ work on it. Scott, R.A., came down again yesterday p.m. and we examined a house in Bosche lines, which seem fortified, but owing to the thickness of the leaves it’s very hard to see, and, I fear, impossible to range on. The trees are nearly full out and give a lot of cover from view. I heard cuckoo Easter Sunday. One swallow April 16th.

MONDAY, MAY 8th

Company Sergeant Major F E Cross

Company Sergeant Major F E Cross

It has turned very cold again, very trying, and showers. A great strafe last night. Ricardo on our right had arranged a raid for 11.30 p.m. The Bosche arranged one just on his right for 11.00 p.m. He was desperately bombarded for three hours with trench mortars and other missiles. He carried out his raid, and did great execution. His casualties for the night were heavy, 17 killed and 67 wounded. They put in a lot of stuff here from 11.00 p.m. to 2.00 a.m., but we got off lightly—one killed (Sgt-Maj. Cross) I’m sorry to say, and four wounded. It was a noisy night. The men manned the trenches and fired a certain amount, which kept their minds occupied, but they were splendid. Just heard from Ricardo, who says his men were magnificent. I was in touch with the three Coys in the line the whole time, as the wires were not cut, and sat with the ‘phone in my hand till 3.00 a.m., thoroughly knowing the situation on our front. Gen. N. and G.S.O.1. arrived on their way to Ricardo, anxious to know what we saw from here, and our views. I told him it was asking for trouble doing the same thing each time on these raids, and that the Bosche knew exactly what to expect and when. The night’s casualties must have been 200. We got one German officer and some prisoners, and of course, cannot guess approximately what the Bosche casualties from our fire was, but it must have been equal to ours. Relief tonight.


Footnote

The casualty was:
15719 Warrant Officer Class II Francis Edward Cross, killed in action by shellfire at Hamel on 8 May 1916; Hamel Military Cemetery.