Second Lieutenant H Lyness
Another show of sorts last night, a tumult of guns 1:30 a.m. to 2.00 a.m. Bosche didn’t reply on us here, but gave the front line some, but didn’t do much damage. A boy called Lyness was hit by a stray bullet returning from wiring, and is in a critical condition. Keen, always did his job well, and capable. I grieve for his loss. Am going to How. [Howitzer] observation post after tea to have look at Bosche trenches. Had a slight chill yesterday, but am all right today. We are busy trying to repair huts here today, and the accommodation here is disgraceful, and I’m strafing all round. They’ll talk and plan and do nothing, and then the winter will be upon us. A Grave Committee bloke, ranking as a Lieut., came round today and was fearfully excited because some R.E. sapper was buried yesterday in the wrong cemetery. I handed him over to the Padre. A consequential Rev._____, who you might think was running the war, laying down the law about burials, etc. Clouding over, expect more rain.
1. Second Lieutenant Harold Lyness was one of the first of a new breed of officer to join the Battalion. From the summer of 1916 until the end of the war a significant proportion of the Battalion’s officers would be former soldiers. Lyness had enlisted into The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders); he was commissioned on 27 August 1915 and posted to 5th Royal Irish Fusiliers in Salonika. He joined 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers on 20 June 1916. When bringing a wiring party home along Spring Trench to Red Lodge on the night of 31 August/1 September 1916, he suffered gunshot wounds to the back from which he did not recover. He died of wounds in 2nd Casualty Clearing Station at Bailleul in the early hours of 2 September 1916, aged 20, and was buried in Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension.
2. The Graves Registration Commission was established by Fabian Ware, a former Director of Education in the South African colonies, a former newspaper editor, and a director of the mining company Rio Tinto. Initially formed as part of the British Red Cross operation in France and Flanders, under Ware’s direction the Commission passed to the control of General Headquarters in 1915 and in early 1916 it became the Directorate of Graves Registration and Enquiries; its operations also expanded into other theatres of operation. Also in 1916 the National Committee for the Care of Soldiers’ Graves was appointed, which aimed to take over the work of the Commission after the war. The scale of the task facing the Committee led to the establishment by Royal Charter on 21 May 1917 of the Imperial War Graves Commission, which became the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 1960. Today it is responsible for the commemoration of 1.7 million casualties of the two world wars in cemeteries and on memorials at more than 23,000 locations, in 154 countries.
Poor young Lyness died this a.m. early. I’m very sorry at his loss. Went over to see transport this morning, and lunched with the Bde. The 109th are on the move going from one flank of the Div to the other; so silly, these little moves. They knock the heart out of people. You’ve just got your little bit improved and lots of plans and projects under way, when you move on and have to begin again. The 13th [Royal Irish Rifles] wanted a working party, but I really would not be good natured at the expense of the men. Usual afternoon gun fire going on.
Service this morning at 10.00 a.m., but our guns were so noisy it was distracting. Second Service afterwards in our mess hut. There was a gas alarm last night, about 11:30 p.m. Everyone stood to and put on gas helmets, but no sign of gas, so after a bit we ‘stood down’. False alarm, I believe, from people on our left. The higher command are very nervy about gas here, and one has to be careful as the Bosche frequently looses it off. One never moves without gas helmets, and when the wind is easterly everyone wears it, opened and pinned to the shirt in front, ready to pull on. Wasps a bother here, but no flies. In the line flies and no wasps. Ricardo came over yesterday p.m. and had a long bukh! He is commanding 109th Bde. temporarily. Yes, Padre is one of the best this world produces. We are busy, with help of R.E., making huts, etc., here more rainproof and generally better. Am leaving two carpenters out of the line for this purpose. Am going to stroll out with Shill. to have a look at an outpost. Walked back and dined with Ricardo at Bde. H.Q. Very pleasant dinner.
Pratt should get on very well with his new lot. He has knowledge and keenness and energy. Jos. Johnston commands ‘C’ Coy., Given ‘D’, and Ensor ‘B’, Allen ‘A’. Colder today, and trying to rain. My harrying did good. Comyn came over today and promised us two officers’ huts and one men’s at once. Should be up before we come out again. This will make a difference to our comfort. We go in tonight; relief getting earlier each time owing to light, which is a blessing, as it means earlier settling in. We are leaving carpenters out of the line to carry out the work under R.E. supervision. It has turned colder; healthier. I think we shall get into one of the new Elephants at Stinking Farm tonight, which will be an improvement. We shall use it as a mess, with a small room partitioned off for either Shill. or me. Have been squaring up Battalion accounts for August. Have only now got through canteen funds, and now have to begin on the £500 donation, which has increased, with interest to £516. I find every other Battalion has only a little of this left.
We got in last night in relief without mishap. Showery, and today cold and rain. Trenches messy. Padre and Shill. both been at me to ask for leave, so today have written in for 10 days leave, from September 12-21, on plea of urgent private affairs. Duke was down today and persuaded him to stay to lunch. Just heard from ‘Dickie’ asking me to go and stay two days, as he is acting Brigadier. Afternoon hate, the T.M.’s [Trench Mortars] begun on our left.
Charlie was down today and wants me to postpone my leave till about 24th. Three C.O.’s away and Nugent going on leave. However, I think it will be all right then. I will try and get from September 26-October 5.
Such a noisy night. Guns hard at it from 10.00 p.m. to 2.00 a.m., and again at 4.00 a.m., mostly our guns. Bosche didn’t trouble us at all. A lovely day after yesterday’s downpour. Getting good work done here today. Shill. is splendid at organising and getting it done. He is indefatigable, up at 5.30 a.m., knocking around till 8.00 a.m., and then round with me, and again in p.m. Huts, etc., getting put up at Red Lodge, the R.E. tell me, so I hope that will be in a better state when we go out on Sunday. Allen gone sick. Godson commanding ‘A’ Coy., and doing snipers and patrols.
The afternoon hate began at 3.00 p.m. today and has now finished; heavy on our left, much noise. Just now a peaceful and sunny afternoon with only the drones of aeroplanes and occasional guns going off and shells passing over. At present I find I don’t miss Pratt. I must now go the afternoon round. Yesterday I was as usual, the first day in, feeling dismayed at what had to be done. Today work is going on methodically and good work being done, and interest is awake again.
Corpl. G. Robinson was wounded last night with the Transport, our first casualty this time in. Much Artillery activity on our side from 10.00 p.m. last night to which the Bosche didn’t reply, but his M.G. fire was vicious. Corpl. Robinson was bringing up the rations, in charge of the waggon; hit in the stomach—M.G. bullet. Sounds bad, but he is away to C.C.S. [Casualty Clearing Station] The flies are not so bad this time. Holt was down and walked round with me. Bet me 50 francs that Bulgaria would declare war on Central Powers before Nov. 1st! Our afternoon Art’y liveliness just begun; we’ve got some big fellows behind that go whispering over our heads. Another fine sunny day.
Another nice day. Our Art’y very active again last night, much noise. Bosche put a few over. Today about noon he began shelling end of tram line where some men, I suppose, exposed themselves, and a trench behind. Was very persistent for over an hour, but no damage done. Shill. is splendid. I am getting slack and lazy and leaving too much to him, I’m afraid. He is an enormous help. Poor Robinson was hit through the liver; they operated and his condition is dangerous. The new Elephant is quite comfy as a mess. Huts progressing at Red Lodge. J.J. is capital, always cheery, and does good work. Owing to these working parties one can never got hold of the men for drill when out of the line, and they get into slack ways. I’m delighted to see Elkington’s brother has been re-instated—a fine performance at his age to enlist in the Foreign Legion! We are living much more comfortably now; fresh fish and vegetables, and messing only 2½ francs daily. I have been slack this tour and haven’t been round in the early morning. The C.R.E. has gone—de Vitry [sic] by name.
Lieutenant Colonel J F Elkington commanded 1st Battalion, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment during the actions in Belgium and France in August 1914. On 27 August he and Lieutenant Colonel A E Mainwaring, Commanding Officer of 2nd Battalion, The Dublin Fusiliers, gave an undertaking to the mayor of St Quentin not to endanger the city or its inhabitants by fighting the advancing enemy in the town. Both officers were tried by court martial and cashiered. Elkington enlisted into the French Foreign Legion (aged 48) and was badly wounded at Navarin Farm during the Second Battle of Champagne, earning the Médaille Militaire and Croix de Guerre. As a consequence, and somewhat controversially, in September 1916 he was reinstated to his former rank and later awarded the Distinguished Service Order. Mainwaring remained disgraced.
Such a warm day and the Sappers have been making more excavations here, with the result of more decayed potatoes and beet being thrown out, and the stink is severe. It has got into my doss house and permeates everything, like the worst flax smell you ever struck. Menaul’s name has gone in for Staff employ, to be attached to 109th Bde. Either the Army or G.H.Q. orders these moves. I suppose unavoidable owing to full Divisions going S. [south], and depleted Div. coming up here, but none the less irksome. Flies bad again today. Padre has gone to see Robinson. He has two services tomorrow. No sign of my 22 returning. Have written again to Nugent. The heat is really quite oppressive. We had another false gas alarm about 9.00 p.m. last night. New C.R.E., King, came to see me today, brisk and anxious to learn conditions, though dismayed at gigantic hutting scheme on foot. I put in a plea for more huts at R.L. [Red Lodge] We’ve done some good wiring this time and useful work on trenches. Can’t stand the stink any longer; must go out.
We go out tonight. Done good work this tour, and lucky in the weather, only one wet day. 14 out of the 22 with 2nd R.I.R. [Royal Irish Rifles] have, I hear, arrived at the Transport. Dull, cloudy day, but warm. Quiet night and day so far. Glad to say my new hut at R.L. [Red Lodge] is now ready for occupation. One new officers’ hut also up. We ought to have a quiet relief tonight. Corpl. R. [Robinson] is going on well, but still in danger. Padre saw him yesterday for a minute. Wonderful man, Padre. He left here at 9.00 a.m., visited hospitals and various units, returned at 7:30, went off up the line at 10.45 p.m., and returned about 1.00 a.m.; started off at 8:30 this morning on his tour of 11 services. Have you read “A Student in Arms?” Much of it very good. Someone sent it to the mess. Relief night is so boresome, waiting about when everyone has gone, and nothing to read.
‘A Student in Arms’ was the nom de plume of Second Lieutenant Donald William Alers Hankey, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, who wrote a series of essays that appeared in ‘The Spectator’. He was killed in action on 12 October 1916 during the Battle of Le Transloy; he has no known grave and is commemorated on Thiepval Memorial. A first volume of his essays was published in 1916 and a second volume was published posthumously in 1917.