TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 30th

Such a wet day. Poured all day without ceasing. Lovely day after the rain storm—much milder. They are issuing a second blanket per man, I am glad to say. No, I’m not made a Brigadier, nor any chance of it. I didn’t leave the R.A. [Royal Artillery] to become a General, but because I thought my duty lay with my own people.

A quiet day. Went round billets of two Coys. in a.m., and searched for bombing ground in p.m. Bombing is all the rage now; everything else is forgotten. Every man to be a bomber—drill pamphlets, instructors, etc., flood in every minute of the day. Every place a sea of mud after the rain. The men quite cheerful and washing their clothes. Some of the skin coats only issued last night were found full of lice.

The men have kept wonderfully clean so far. No illness among them, only a few sore feet, I suppose the open-air life, for their feet can never be dry. I’m rather dreading Adjutant’s departure. Suppose I am getting lazy. He has been excellent out here, in every way, keen energetic, and untiring, and he has a sound opinion. Berry, Fergie, and Padre sleep in one room, three little spring beds alongside one another. They are very cosy and have a fire. I’m glad to say I haven’t had a fire in my room since I came out. Consequently have been free from cold. ‘A’ Company returned at 2.00 a.m., after 24 hours hard work, all in the rain. They marched and unloaded for 18 hours out of 24, unloading guns and wagons out here. I think we shall remain here for a bit, possibly a month! Anyway we are starting reading room, company sgts. messes, and all the sanitary fads. Billets quite good except for a few. I believe we may get eight days leave after three months out, if we are not going into the trenches, or otherwise just then.

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MONDAY, NOVEMBER 29th

Yes. Some Huns shouted out to the Battalion next to us “you can have these _____ trenches, and the _____ Kaiser too, on 29th.” I expect it only meant that lot were going to be relieved on 29th.

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 28th

A nice village. H.Q. in a Notary’s house, quite good, but cold; good kitchen, and beds for six of us; the best we have met with yet. Bitterly cold night and day; looks like more snow. This place was left filthy by a lot in New Div. just out from home. We are now getting it in order. The whole house, which you can see is new and spotless in peace time, was covered with dirt, tins, paper and filth—too bad! Madame the Notary came here today and was very distressed. We consoled her with assurances we were not like that! Windy day this. Sanitary work and settling down till tea. We had open air service this morning, and I insisted on reading Eccles, xii., as we couldn’t have Service last Sunday. A piercing N.E. [north east] wind has got up, looks like snow. Have to send a fatigue party of three officers and 100 men to be at railway—3½ miles from here, at 4.00 a.m.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 26th

[Ribeaucourt.]

Lieutenant General Sir Walter Congreve VC

Lieutenant General Sir Walter Congreve VC

Got back here R_____ [Ribeaucourt] after 17 ½ mile march, about 3.00 p.m. Very cold with snow showers and bitter wind. Off again tomorrow to B_____ [Bellancourt], about 10 miles due west of this place. Redmond was only 1½ miles from us at M_____ _____ [Mailly-Maillet]. We were the Battalion he referred to next the Dublins.

Congreve, V.C., commands the XIII Corps. Fearful rush here arranging for move. I walked about 9 miles of the march today, it was so bitter riding. Yes, I fancy plenty of ammunition. Gunners blazing away all day. Snow boots doing well. Any working party at night is risky, as the opposite side invariably spray a bit with M.G. on the chance of catching some party working at something on top.

 


Footnote

John Redmond visited France in November 1915 and spent three days on a wide-ranging tour of various headquarters and units, including a number of Irish battalions. A diary of his visit may be found here.

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 25th

[Puchevillers.]

Here we are at the end of our first march. We left at 9.00 a.m. and got in here at 1.00 p.m. Fine sunny day; roads very heavy; about 12 miles. Lambton came out to see us, and the Battalion looked well. The Qr. Mr. [Quartermaster] of the 1st R.I.F. and Eric Fforde came out to see the Battalion pass. The Qr. Mr. (Bunting, a Portadown man,) was greatly struck with the Battalion, and said the ‘Baby’ was a very fine one. Half the 12th R.I.R. is here also. They had a rotten time. Only in the line by Coys., remainder under canvas. This is the third time we have been here, P-v-s [Puchevillers] and a different billet each time. I’ll write a line to Miss Fforde to say I’ve seen her brother. He was looking well, transport officer and back well from the front line. We had all yesterday for baths and changing clothing, and the men turned out well today. Very cold here but splendid for marching. If it will only keep fine for tomorrow’s long march.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 24th

[Colincamps.]

Got back out of the trenches to this place from where we went in. Relief was not finished to 7.00 p.m., when Pratt, Adjutant and I were the last to leave. Walked to the village M_____ M_____. [Mailly-Maillet] Dined with Smyth, who gave us a splendid repast, and then walked on here arriving at 10.00 p.m. Fergie had been at work and got three rooms—a splendid billet, due to the goodness of the Gunners here. I am in a beautifully furnished room, with carpet! Such luxury after dugout. An easy day today, as the men are cleaning and bathing preparatory to move tomorrow, when we go back same way, and billets, we came here from to our old R_____. [ Ribeaucourt] Stay there a day or two to collect our things, and then on again, but where we don’t know. Each night in the trenches we had a Gunner officer with us, who fed with us and had a dug-out of his own. I can’t think why he was here. Two very nice subs [subalterns] came, and yesterday the Captain (Bittleton [sic]) arrived, about three hours before we left.

Captain C M Johnston

Captain C M Johnston

We got out of the trenches with no casualties. I am so pleased. One or two narrow shaves. A shell near C. Johnston, and rifle sight shot off, and a bayonet hit with a bullet. The 1st R.I.F. [Royal Irish Fusiliers] on our left had a man killed, and some wounded in the three days they were in. The 18th on our left [sic, right] had some casualties. The 9th R.I.R. [Royal Irish Rifles] had three men badly hit at a working party the night before we left. ‘Downs’ had four and 12th R.I.R. three, I think. I hear the new XIII Corps is to consist of 7th, 30th, 32nd and 36th Divisions, and is to concentrate near Abbeville. Fergie had a long talk with Hull, the Brigadier. In recounting it to me “Brigadier said ‘You’re a well-officered Battalion. Your Colonel is a nut, and a Brazil nut to boot.’ ” You should have heard Fergie rolling it out. Am writing in R.A. [Royal Artillery] mess, which is comfy.

The men were splendid the whole week. Never a complaint, tho’ very uncomfortable and in some cases worse. We had one case of frost bite. The sentries in sap-heads were standing over their ankles in cold slush, for two hours at a time with no means of keeping their feet dry. Lutton did excellently with the telephone arrangements; never a hitch; everything working smoothly and quickly, tho’ the lines wanted constant watching for breakages, due to trenches falling in. Young Anson is A_D_C_ [Aide-de-Camp] to Lambton.

I think I told you about the march. Men did splendidly, and all came in with Battalion. You know Adjt. has had a lot to do with efficiency of Battalion. Most of the C.O.’s are equally good or bad, but few have decent Adjts.; and Adjutant is excellent. Afraid C. Shillington was killed.