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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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

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.