SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 24th – SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 30th

Lieutenant Colonel Blacker went on leave on 24 September and returned on 7 October. The last week of September was spent out of the line at Red Lodge. Lieutenant Godson and over forty men prepared for a raid scheduled for the beginning of October against the strongly-wired and fortified position at La Petite Douve Farm. The reconnaissance patrol for this raid—conducted by Godson, accompanied by Second Lieutenants Richard Miles and Patrick Kiely, and a Sergeant—was the one referred to by Lieutenant Colonel Blacker on 21 September.

On 29 September the Battalion returned to the line. That evening Stinking Farm was shelled and elsewhere three men suffered bullet wounds.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22nd

Pratt writes very cheerily, greatly bucked over his fellows and raid. Killed 33, and one prisoner. Not withstanding the weather we have done some good work this tour. Padre gave us turbot and chicken last night! We go out tonight. The strafe has died down. The Bosche has hardly replied as yet. He got a rare tickling up, and most of his work for the past months must be upset badly.


Footnote

In his history of 36th (Ulster) Division, Cyril Falls described the raid by 11th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers: ‘…opposite Kruisstraat Cabaret, the British lines jutted out into a work known as the “Bull Ring,” which commanded some relatively high ground, about seventy yards from the enemy’s trench. The raid was just north of this work, on an enemy trench almost on the same longitudinal line, yet a machine-gun was able to fire from the “Bull Ring” two thousand rounds on the enemy’s trenches, while the “box” barrage of the Artillery was put round the raiding party, and no shell came near it. Over thirty Germans were estimated to have been killed, unfortunately, the Inniskillings, besides ten wounded, had three wounded and missing. One prisoner was taken as an identification.’

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21st

Lovely day. Heavy strafe on. Begun by us at 3.00 p.m. We put over all sorts of heavy stuff into their trenches opposite, and fairly blew them up. Big bits of timber flying up like bits of straw. Had an important patrol out last night, and was up in front line waiting for its return from 11.30 p.m. till 1.30 a.m. Luckily very fine night.


Footnote

The patrol was carried out by Lieutenant Godson and Second Lieutenants Richard Miles (who would lead the raid) and Patrick Kiely, and an unnamed Sergeant; it was a reconnaissance for a raid that would take place on 12 October.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20th

Heavy showers yesterday; rain at intervals through the night, and today. Everything very wet and messy, except communication trenches, which are in excellent order. The front line is, of course, slipping in, and generally bad. We very nearly had a move N. yesterday. Fortunately it was cancelled at the last minute. Weather seems regularly broken. Low flying clouds and constant rain. Thunder yesterday. Very busy today.

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19th

Sergt. Lucas and Corpl. Clements have each got Military Medal, and Godson, Military Cross. The small stream has risen six feet and some trenches are flooded, also our two bridges have two feet of water over them. Of course the usual slipping in of trench walls and sandbags, but the bottom of trenches is splendid, except where the stream has overflowed. This a.m. was thundery, and very heavy showers. Now turned sunny. Last night was cold. I was very snug in the end of the Elephant. The Lewis gun officer was flooded out of his dug-out, two feet of water on the floor. His kit mostly floated away. Things quiet so far.

River Douve flooded by winter rain

River Douve flooded by winter rain

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 18th

Such a wet day, downpour from about 10.00 p.m. last night. Owing to good work on trenches and draining, we are walking on dry trench boards, instead of water and mud. A quiet night, and I slept from 10.00 p.m.—6.00 a.m. The Elephant is much better than my old calf house on a wet day. No rain drifts in. Fergie made pals with Field Paymaster last time we were out, who said he would like to visit the trenches. Last night he turned up and spent the night in the front line, and passed away this a.m., I expect full of his yarns as to his adventures. The downpour is really a blessing, as it enables us to see where the weak places are in our plans and drainage, etc., and to remedy them before winter sets in. The difficulty always is for officers and men alike to get dry again, once wet, which everyone is bound to be when it rains. Yes, Matthew visited us last night, first time he has been here.

Breastworks near Messines. The high water table prevented digging trenches and the lack of shelter referred to by Lieutenant Colonel Blacker is evident. The enemy occupied the high ground in the distance.

Breastworks near Messines. The high water table prevented digging trenches and the lack of shelter referred to by Lieutenant Colonel Blacker is evident. The enemy occupied the high ground in the distance.

 

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 17th

Here we are at the Stinking Farm again. Quiet relief, all over 9.10 p.m. Fine night. I think being away from the Battalion has done the men good, and made them appreciate the Battalion, especially the messing. Hodded all around this a.m. and found my interest was keen.

The day was lovely, which had something to say for it. Worked out what each company was to do before we came in, and everything is now going ahead. About midnight a heavy bombardment woke us up, but on going outside I found it was N. of us. Lasted over an hour and was mingled with rifle and M.G. fire. Don’t know what it was. Pratt’s push did a raid two nights ago. Got one prisoner, I hear. I am in the Elephant this tour, very nice, but of course dark in the day time, but less exposed to the elements. Place still living up to its name. Duke has left a bottle of Eau de Cologne for H.Q. to be handed over as a trench store.

Sunday; thank goodness we have a rest from Generals and other inflictions. They are pushing well on the Somme. Please send out mufflers, gloves, etc. You have also 400 pair of socks. Weather very cold at nights. Razors also wanted. We have about 400 men in the trench line.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 16th

Much Art’y noise last night. Big things going on S. [south i.e. in the Somme battle] Am going into the Elephant myself this time. Another of the 22—making 16—returned today [from 2nd Royal Irish Rifles]. Had a bukh with de Wiart today. Such a nice fellow. His wife is an Austrian, big bug, I think. She was in Austria till July 10th and came to England via Berlin. Most interesting. As we were in the line last Sunday and shall be again tomorrow we had service this p.m. Padre giving us great diet, fish and fresh vegetables, and all with messing cheaper.

The three huts I agitated for last time are finished and occupied. Now we concentrate on mess hut, partition it, line it, repair roof and sides and floor, put in stove, also go on repairing men’s huts, and making paths. A little rain in the night, fine today, but N. wind and decidedly autumnal. I sent you yesterday my Battalion Orders on Cather. My leave went in yesterday. Barring accidents, should be all right.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 15th

A lovely day after a horrid evening and night. My hut is getting quite cosy, lined with sacking, and a window and door. Writing now with afternoon sun streaming in. It’s very pleasant. The men are trying to play football in a rough field in front, full of shell holes; probable result: sprained ankles. Sergt. Barbour slipped on the greasy mud this a.m., and he’s gone to hospital with a sprain. Last night was decidedly chilly; very cosy in bed, but horrid outside. We go in again tomorrow night. They all seem in great feather over the French and doings generally in the S [south]. I must confess that right up to the end I was skeptical about the end of the Boer War and I was wrong. Maybe I’m wrong now, but I see no signs of German weakening. Marvellous to say they do not at present seem to be deficient of men.