Lieutenant Colonel Blacker was at home in Ireland on leave until 7 October. In the line the first couple of days of October were quiet but about 11.30 p.m. on the night of 3 October men were seen in front of a forward listening post commanded by Lance Sergeant Dick Wolfe. They began to cut the wire and the sentry on duty reported this to Lance Sergeant Wolfe who crawled out to verify the report. He confirmed that enemy were cutting the wire, returned to the listening post and sent his men back to the main trench. He threw bombs at the enemy, who retaliated in the same fashion, and then returned to the trench for more bombs. With these he returned to the listening post and threw them at the enemy, then returned to the main trench and directed the fire of a Lewis gun, successfully driving off the attackers. For his gallantry he would be awarded the Military Medal. The Battalion returned to Red Lodge on the night of 4 October, where Lieutenant Colonel Blacker joined his men in the early hours of 7 October.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 7th
Very rough crossing and fearfully crowded boat. C. had come by car to B_____, [Bailleul] and the car waited for me. Great luck. So after a hurried report I came straight on here (R.L.), [Red Lodge] arriving 12.15 a.m. Quite good. Fergie’s sports on. Fine early, but heavy showers have begun. Very dark night, and we had to put out all lights in the car for last two miles. Much work awaiting me. Hardly a minute all day; many arrangements to be made. All p.m. at boxing. Day went off well in spite of showers. Now concert, then dinner. Pratt stays here tonight. Goes on leave tomorrow. Such heaps arrears of work.
The Battalion spent the day engaged in sports—a sports’ day for everyone in the morning and a boxing competition in the afternoon. A concert was held at 6.00 p.m. that evening at which the Division’s band played.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 8th
Wet again today. A great dinner. I enclose menu. Each officer had a different picture on his. Pratt, Berry, Cole-Hamilton came. No speeches. just “The King” and “Absent Comrades”. The Band played during and after dinner, and assisted at the concert, and played at church parade this morning, so we got good value out of them. Seven new officers joined last night, all from Newtownards [i.e. the 10th (Reserve) Battalion]. Have just given them an hour’s talk.
5.00 p.m. Turned out fine after all. Still find there’s heaps of work to do and am scrambling to make up arrears. Our mess is improved here, though not finished, and the accommodation for officers and men generally is better. Still wants improving. A few more huts. We have turned an old hut into a men’s recreation room. The sports and boxing went off very well, thanks to Fergie’s arrangements. I was not able to be long there, as I was busy writing all day. Wonder will you see Pratt; he was going to look you up.
The dinner held on the evening of 7 October was for the Battalion officers, including a number of those original members who were serving elsewhere, and guests from other battalions in the Brigade.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 9th
Cardigans not wanted, Government making an issue. Games arrived all right, so reading room in full swing. Finer today so far, and drying, but everywhere messy. The weather is not cold yet. Find my little house here very comfy and nice. Wire just come in awarding M.C. [Military Cross] to Menaul. Wilson’s appointment as Quartermaster is sanctioned, so Milne becomes Regtl. Q.M.S. [Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant]
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 10th
A bright breezy day, and everything drying up well. We go in about 5.00 p.m. and dine in the line. Am not particularly looking forward to this tour. They have been knocking the trenches about with T.M.’s [trench mortars] and there is a lot of repair work to be done. Send a wire or line of congratulations to Menaul. Hope to have a bukh with Holt when I go in this evening. 14680 M. Strothers, Portadown, was badly injured on Saturday. He was a prisoner in the guard tent, and a branch of a tree fell on the tent and fractured his skull. Candles badly wanted now. Woollen caps have arrived in the nick of time, and 400 pairs socks just as we needed them.
14680 Private Maxwell Strothers died on 7 October 1916; Nieppe Communal Cemetery. He was one of four brothers who served with the Battalion. One was killed in action during the attack on 1 July 1916 and a second brother would die in Dublin in January 1917. A third brother was wounded on 1 July 1916 but survived the war.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 11th
Relief completed by 7.15 p.m. last night, and we dined comfortably down here at 8.00 p.m. A lovely evening and quiet night. Just as I was starting down Duke came to see me, so I hadn’t much of a talk with Holt. Gusty day. S.W. wind, and leaves swirling, but fine.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 12th
Our show came off early this a.m., but alas was unsuccessful. Three officer casualties—two serious. About 25 men, half serious. I found it waiting for me on my return and has been worrying me much since. Can’t give you details. I’m grieved about the loss. Bright moonlight, and fine. Time 2.00 a.m. A very harassing night. Of course, as usual, Padre a tower of strength. The M.O. [medical officer] did splendidly. Shill was delightful. Jimmy Shepherd, in charge of trollies for wounded, did splendid service. One officer, though hit in the eye and arm quite soon, went on all the same and didn’t fall out till the party was back in our trench. Bosche put up a stiff barrage on our front line. We didn’t effect an entrance. Weather still very pleasant, dry and pleasant breeze. Trenches rather knocked about. A good deal more Art’y and T.M. activity on Master Bosche’s part, but less M.G. fire. Not a M.G. was fired by him whilst our men were out. He is being stirred up properly and given no peace. Naturally he’s getting stuffy. Will try and send you names of locals wounded. Very good performance bringing in all the wounded last night.
The raid against La Petite Douve Farm began at 2.00am with a preliminary artillery, trench mortar and machine-gun barrage. The raiders then dashed across the 200 yards of no-man’s-land along the slope of the hill to the wire that protected the objective. Although they fought hard, they could not penetrate to the enemy trenches. All of the officers were wounded. Second Lieutenant Matthew Buchanan was severely injured in one eye and in his arm early in the attack, but he reached the German parapet and bombed the enemy until he was forced to retire, and he remained with his party until they were all back in their trenches. Second Lieutenant Patrick Kiely was also severely wounded in the arms and legs but he also continued to lead his party until they were back in the lines. Second Lieutenant Richard Miles remained out until the last moment, under fire, helping to extricate the wounded from the German wire. He was aided by Lance Sergeant Dick Wolfe who, having got close to the enemy’s position, hurled bombs at very short range until it became necessary to help the wounded back. As the wounded were brought in, the enemy quickly put up a heavy artillery barrage on the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers’ front line trenches. The flying shrapnel greatly hindered the evacuation of the wounded by the unwounded raiders and the stretcher-bearers from A, B and D Companies under the command of the medical officer, Lieutenant Burrows, and Company Quartermaster Sergeant James Shepherd.
Four men were killed in action or died of wounds and 26 others were wounded. Those killed were:
18559 Private Robert Lockhart died of wounds on 12 October 1916; Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension.
23947 Private Robert William McGivern died of wounds on 12 October 1916; Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension.
18070 Private Robert Reaney killed in action on 12 October 1916; Ration Farm (La Plus Douve) Cemetery.
22749 Private Alexander Hollywood died of wounds on 18 October 1916; Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 13th
The Gen. looked in about 2.45 p.m. and ate his sandwiches in Shill’s room, and I went and talked to him. He fears no conscription for Ireland. H.Q. will not send English drafts to us, possibly to force Government hand about conscription. Anyway the outlook is bad for us. They propose various schemes. Two cooks were wounded by a chance shell yesterday. Poor Buchanan has lost his eye, and may have his brain injured. Kiely hit in arms and legs. Miles, slight in thumb. Bosche heavy T.M. more numerous and annoying. They have got at us every day, and we retaliate with T.M.’s and Hows. [howitzers] So far their damage has only been material, but they make a great to-do and mess. Heavy shrapnel they also indulge in. Their M.G. is certainly less violent.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 14th
So glad you saw young Wingfield. Such a nice boy. Delighted he is getting on all right. They Bosche has been very active all day. Began at 10.00 a.m., when the T.M.’s shelled our front line for ¾ hour. We gave him heavy stuff back, but he put some more ones about 12.30 p.m. He was active all round from 3.00 p.m., and finally gave us a dose of heavy stuff at Bn. H.Q. from 4.45 to 5.30 p.m. Some very near, and one actually hitting the Elephant. Tables and shelves tumbled down, and my torch was broken, and a spout of water rose from the floor, but no one was touched. In fact we have escaped any casualties today, wonderful to say. I am getting our Heavies to shell his Bde. and Bn. H.Qs., which I hope will tickle him up. Padre went to see Buchanan and Kiely and found them both doing well, though the former had had his eye out. Duke was down today. He is a nice fellow and always helpful. I had left my despatch case unfastened; it was hurled to the floor and articles scattered.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 15th
Been so busy all day. Round the three Coys in a.m., Conference and then to support Coy (‘C’) where Padre had a service, then on to see Cole-Hamilton, and so home. Quiet day after yesterday’s heavy strafing. Shill. and Pratt have been promoted [to major and lieutenant colonel]. Been a very fine bright day, and healthy. We need candles badly now. You might send two chickens some time. No rain since we came into the line, and weather very nice; not cold.