FRIDAY, MAY 19th

Second Lieutenant G C Dickson

Second Lieutenant G C Dickson

9.30 a.m.— They turned a M.G. on our wiring party last night and hit that nice boy, Dickson, a Sub [subaltern] in ‘C’ Coy. He was hit high up in the chest, and the bullet is still in. He was in considerable pain. We got him away in the motor ambulance, about 1.30 a.m. and the Padre, like a brick, went with him, and has not yet returned. Another roasting day; they are putting whizz-bangs over the new Elephant to try and stop working parties, I suppose. A good many trench mortars into the Battalion on our right. Just off round the line. Our Gunner officer for this 24 hours came out as a Bombardier in ‘J’ [‘J’ Battery]. Rapid promotion.

12.30 p.m.—Just back and rather warm, but the cellar is beautifully cool. ‘D’ Coy. have just got into their new dug-out mess; very nice. We started it when we were here in Feb., and when we came in last month it was still much in the same state. However, we got on to it and now it’s done it is very satisfactory. Very deep and safe. Centre Coy., ‘C’, also have a good one, but the right Coy has a bad one and it’s hard to improve it. However, the accommodation is greatly improved, which is as well, as we are a good deal stronger in officers now. Padre returned at 7.00 p.m.—not a good account of Dickson. They have taken him into a good hospital, about 10 miles from here, and we are to hear tomorrow what they think of him. He suffered a great deal, I fear. Three oil cans landed just now in right Coy. No damage. Papers still very erratic. No ‘Times’ since Tuesday.

THURSDAY, MAY 18th

Old Ensor suddenly appeared yesterday. I am very glad. Such a hot day. Simply roasting and airless in the trenches. We had a disturbed night, as we had a secret test of our communications with the Artillery at 2.00 a.m.—rockets, telephone, signalling and by runner. It worked out all right. The morning was very foggy so neither rockets or signalling were visible. After that was over I visited the marsh Posts with the Padre, and returned to bed at about 5.30. Slept till 7.30 a.m. Tin hats very hot. A fairly peaceful day; they burst some shrapnel over the village in the p.m., and M.G.s are active as usual tonight. Probable that we shall not go back for a rest for a bit yet.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 17th

Another lovely day, and so hot. Relief went off all right. Such a perfect night and a full moon, no cold; one could sit outside. The Elephant may be ready in a week; I doubt it. Padre has taken Pratt’s bed in the cellar. 50 of the Pioneers and two officers are doing work in the line. We have to feed one of them. Allen (16th) [Royal Irish Rifles] fell from his horse yesterday and is suffering shock! Another Pioneer officer fell off his horse and has since died. Had a very hot walk round this morning. The trenches very airless. The 12th did a lot of work while they were in. There was an aeroplane over us last night. Don’t know whose. Bosche captive balloon up today observing. The cellar is delightfully cool today, but everyone coming into the line comes here so there’s never any peace or privacy, which is trying. We are busy deepening all trenches in the village, as during a strafe it is impossible to move about, until they are deep. I think I told you there is a beautiful spring of water here, which is a great boon. This cellar is to be turned into a Regtl. Aid Post or dressing station when we clear out to the Elephant.

TUESDAY, MAY 16th

Such a lovely sunny day after the downpour yesterday. We go in this evening and stay in, I expect, for eight days. A violent strafe broke out about 12.30 a.m. this morning, a little N. [north] of us, of which the tail end just missed our sector. It lasted an hour, and our guns round here were active and made the night hideous. I suppose a raid, but don’t know any details. Pratt and Bob Maxwell went off on leave at 6.00 a.m. this morning. Am taking my bath in this time, as water is plentiful there, and we are in for so long. I find we can buy lemons here.

SUNDAY, MAY 14th

Rain stopped, but still dull and cold. The old train managed to get on last night without unloading. Had another bath this morning, and am getting all the men a second bath before they go into the line. Expect we’re getting your bad weather now. No more Hun spot cases. Hollywood has returned; no other new officers so far. No, never heard a word against the Indian troops. There might have been a few isolated cases, but I doubt any general disaffection. We come out to Mesnil each time, but when we come out for 14 days will go further behind H____e [Hédauville]. The only badly wounded last Sunday was Hall, who comes from Tyrone. L/Corpl. Huston, from Armagh, was wounded on a fatigue party, the same night, but before the strafe. Have not heard how Sergeant Pollock is going out, but I fear he will not come back to us. Don’t know yet when we go in. Have been reading Dillon’s speech—a lot of impassioned rot! A____ [Amiens] has been put out of bounds for all below rank of Maj-Gen!


Footnote

The speech referred to was the stand made in Parliament by John Dillon MP against the continuance of martial law and the executions of rebel leaders. The proposed resolution, his speech and the Prime Minister’s reply may be read in Hansard.

John Redmond MP and John Dillon MP

John Redmond MP and John Dillon MP

SATURDAY, MAY 13th

Such a wet day. We don’t go in to the line till Monday or Tuesday, and then for eight days and then back for a fortnight, I think. Pratt and Padre tried fishing yesterday, but caught nothing, as whizz-bangs were coming near them, and they left off after an hour. They are going to give us 14 officers over estab., which means another nine. Had tea with How. By. [howitzer battery] yesterday. Geoffrey White is a Brigadier now, and Malcolm Peake C.R.A. [Commander Royal Artillery] 29th Div. vice old Stockdale, who has been sent home. I always thought he was too slow. Have got my chair up here and am most comfy. The soil here is like C.B. [Carrick Blacker] and gets ‘lifty’ after rain and takes some drying. Sir R. Chalmers was Gov. of Ceylon, and was weak, I hear. Socks will be welcome. Hope they sack the Sinn Feiners from Gov. employ. We are not working on the Elephant—R.E. and 107th Bde. We are to have daylight saving out here. Do wish they would do away with the Irish time. Walked over the Brigade Office; with infinite care got Gen. to agree to cancel our working party for tonight of 150. The weather is too dreadful, pouring rain, and no work could be done. Still uncertain whether we go in Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. Col. Kentish just sent me an account of the raid carried out by 1st R.I.F. in daylight. Highly successful. They killed one officer and 12 Germans, counted them, and got a few prisoners. A train load of ammunition has just broken down on the line here, and we have to turn out a party to unload it. Lucky I got the working party cancelled.


Footnote

This extremely successful daylight raid was the first of its kind to be conducted by the BEF. It was carried out near Monchy-au-Bois on the afternoon of 17 April by 2 officers and 26 other ranks of the 1st Battalion and an officer and four men of the Royal Engineers.

THURSDAY, MAY 11th

A great football match yesterday against the 1st Cameronians—rather a professional team. A good fast game ended in two goals all. The ‘Downs’ had some casualties last night—22 I hear. Some seven more of Ricardo’s wounded have died. A dull close day. The country is looking lovely, and the blossom in the orchard is lovely. H_____ [Hamel] is a very pretty place, with the river and the woods, and the undulating ground, not withstanding its ruined look. Letters just in. Alas! No compulsion of Ireland.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 10th

Weather turned warmer and finer after a wet night. Very quiet here since Sunday. A memo has just come in from G.H.Q. saying much leakage of information going home in letters, and especially officer’s letters; in future any one transgressing will be tried by court martial! We have to find 200 men for working parties every night—infernal, and 50 men by day, and last night was very wet into the bargain. However, there is work that has to be done.