FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 8th

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.


Footnote

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.

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SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 9th

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.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 10th

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.


Footnote

‘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.

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 11th

M’Neill returns today with lot from Rifles. I slept in my new hut last night, very comfy! Corrugated iron and sand bagged. They are still busy at it. Other huts—two ready tonight, and one tomorrow; good work being done. Dull and threatening rain, but warm. We are now 650 strong—strongest Battalion in the Brigade. More officers keep arriving. I think we have 33 in all, but I cannot keep pace with them, nor have I grasped all their names yet. A most successful relief. Everyone was in here at 10:20 p.m. Beautiful moonlight night, which facilitated matters greatly.

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12th

I’ve had to leave one Coy, ‘B’ about half way in as 11th [Royal Irish Rifles] are so weak. Godson, Sergt. Lucas and Corpl. Clements went yesterday to be decorated by the Army Commander at B_____ [Bailleul]. Am going there today to seek Robinson, and get my hair cut. I’m delighted to say they have awarded the V.C. to Cather. It will be a consolation to his mother to feel that his gallant deeds have been publicly recognised. Still fine, I’m thankful to say, and work going on well. Another Div. attacked the other day over the same ground as we did, but did not get so far.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13th

I see a Capt. has been tried by Gen. C.M. for disclosing information in his letters home, and sentenced to lose seniority, so they are out on the war path. A very pleasant day in B_____ [Bailleul]. Poor Robinson had died that morning. The photo P.C. [post card] was Div. H.Q., where I stayed; moved now. Warm today, heavy shower now on, like thunder. My new residence is sand-bagged, side and roof, and has a door and window! Glass very hard to obtain; got two panes. Except these huts will be cold, but we may not be here. B_____ [Bailleul] is a long trek, off eight miles, not a bad small town, fair shops. Good fishmonger, and cheap. Fruit expensive, decent restaurant in the food line, but small pokey accommodation. One of the new lads has pushed off with appendicitis, quite a good youth, too.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14th

Poor George Robinson, buried this morn at 8.00 a.m. Padre and Stronge went eight miles! Glos. Regt. here now, went in to see them, and found Charlie Harding a Major in them; just the same. They are commanded by Carton de Wiart, who has just got the V.C. Only one arm and one eye. Was in 4th D.G’s. [Dragoon Guards] Quite young, and seemed a very nice fellow. Div. band played here today. Rained, unfortunately, at intervals. We are always changing various huts and shelters with other Divs, rather a bother. Some silly reason evolved by a bloke in an office, who thinks maps would look well with a straight line of demarcation. Came fussing round about it today, but I was rude and told him it was easy to be generous at other people’s expense. Jeffreys, who is a Guardsman, commands this next Bde. They like him. Each morning I get one company, as strong as possible (about 80) and get the Subs [subalterns] out to drill. Capital for them, and the men. They so soon get into slovenly ways in the trenches, and here we cannot get any Battalion drill.


Footnote

17944 Corporal George Robinson, Battalion Transport, was wounded on 6 September and died of wounds on 12 September 1916; Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension.