The men write 1,000 letters a day! Brigade Field Day today. Gas demonstration tomorrow.
This p.m. we had gas demonstration. A schoolhouse was filled with gas, and the whole Battalion put on gas helmets, and walked through it, to prove the efficiency of the helmet. No casualty, but the buttons of the jackets were all discoloured. The ‘Downs’ have moved to another village, which has relieved the congestion here.
A conference at the Division’s headquarters about the recruiting problem. The General is sure that Ireland will be left out of any National Service Scheme. General Hickman came over today, and said we were only just in time, K told Sir C. Hunter at the King’s Review we should probably not move after all. We have escaped the Balkans and the Dardanelles by the skin of our teeth, I believe.
They send us a general statement of communiqués from each Front, every evening, with orders. Berry doctors the whole village. 8 miles is their nearest doctor.
There’s a squadron of N. I. Horse about 4 miles from here. We move on Sunday, two days march into the trenches, for a week’s instruction, then back here for a bit. Caught a spy last night signalling. We have to leave 5 officers behind here, learning bombing; a nuisance. We need every one of them.
1. For an excellent history of the North Irish Horse see: Tardif, P. (2015). The North Irish Horse in the Great War. Barnsley: Pen & Sword..
Constant calls for returns and reports. The people here are very friendly and easy to get on with. Men very energetic; good thing. Had a bath this evening, second since arrival. Water very scarce. Field Day tomorrow: rather a nuisance the day before we move.
‘Returns and reports’. Almost everything in a unit was enumerated or recorded—its strength, casualties, sick, stores expended, daily activities etc. Most of this work was compiled by the Adjutant and Quartermaster.
The field exercises conducted in mid-October were the last training events before 36th (Ulster) Division began the routine of life in and out of the trenches. Although the format of the exercises was not representative of the activities that would be conducted by the units of the Division over the next three years, they did allow Major General Nugent to get a feel for the level of training and discipline of the Division’s infantry. He was not wholly impressed, which resulted in the removal of a number of officers in the autumn of 1915.
Met Elkington today. (He now commands our Artillery.) He came to tea. Only arrived from Ypres four days ago, where he had been for four months, shelled day and night. Has been out 14 months; home twice for 5 days. Never touched and never a day sick. Right through the Retreat from Mons, Marne, Aisne, etc. Looking very well, but tired. Very cheery, and just the same as ever. Says War Office & General Headquarters and the French very optimistic. They all think we have the Huns, and at least they are at the end of their men.
Get into trench area Tuesday, and return here about 28th. Start at 12.30 pm. Short march.