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1914 - Edward Packe's diary of World War IGrey background shows when Edward Packe was in Britain.
Aug 7th. Rise at 6.45am, breakfast at 8am. Draw rest of kit and see C.O. A Company parade at 2.30pm in Field Marching order. I had been posted to No 10 section of No 3 Platoon. Kit inspection by Mr. Bradshaw the Platoon Commander. Did up mufti, after tea had hair cut again. Sent mufti to St. Mary's (the Inglis's house). Watched soccer game, mooched about.
Aug 8th. Rise 5.30 early parade; after brekker capital sheaf of letters including one from Claudia with a photo. Parade for drill in morning. Answer some of the letters after lunch. Instruction in parts of rifle, get Field Service book. Write to Claudia; shave and wash, bed.
[Extract from letter]
Aug 9th. No parade till 9.30. Route march through Beerchurch and Blackheath, then manoeuvres on Ranges, After lunch Rifle & Foot inspection. Wash and write letters. Inglis comes to see me after tea. Read and write letters.
Aug 11th. Parade 6.45. After brekker parade again at 9.30 and have a hell of a route march. Back in Barracks by about 1.30. Ripping letter from Claudia, one from Bay. Foot & Rifle inspection about 3.pm, slack and write letters, ditto after tea. Having a drink in the Canteen when we have to fall-in in F.S.M.O. Marched to Elmstead Marks, bed about 2.am in school.
Aug 12th. Brekker about 8. Foot & Rifle inspection, slack about. After lunch fall in and dig trenches. After tea write to Bay. See Hammond. Go on Guard.
Aug 13th. Came off Guard at 6.am. Not on first parade, dig trenches after brekker, ditto after lunch; tea, then go up to Hammonds and have a hot bath then supper (bliss). Back and sleep.
Aug 14th. Fire Instruction at 6.45.am. Brekker 7.15. parade F.S.M.0. at 8.30. Short Route march. Rifle & Foot inspection at midday. Read and pack up after lunch. Tea at 4, get Pay (10/-). Slack about, say goodbye to Hammonds. Start off about 7.15 and get back to Colchester about 8.45. Change rooms, have a topping night.
Aug 15th. No parade before brekker, short route march, Foot and Rifle inspection. Write letters and slack about. See about getting a Pass for tomorrow, bed early.
Aug 16th. Parade at 7am. Physical Exercise (Swedish Drill). Pass granted, Wash clothes. Go to Inglis and get bike, go home and have a bath. Tom Pym, Kitty Hunt, Betty and two Sisters at home. Pellys come up in afternoon, spend a lazy day. Back to Colchester about 6.30. Write to Matron. Find there have been orders for us to leave Colchester on Tuesday next.
Aug 17th. Brekker at 6.45. Parade at 8 for a Route March, quite a hot one. Back at about 11.45, wash and clean rifle. Kit inspection after lunch. Beats comes down. Pack up Sea Kit Bag. Read and talk, bed early.
Aug 18th. Rouse at 1 am. brekker at 2.30, clean up Barracks. Parade at 4am., entrain at 5. Reach Harrow at about 8.30. Dig 'rears' and refuse pit till 2pm. Lunch, slack time and get a Pass, after tea go up to Beats and have supper, Back to camp and sleep like the dead. Drunk man episode.
Aug 19th. Fire instruction at 7. Brekker at 8. Parade for Route march at 9.30. Back at about 1pm. Rifle and Foot inspection at 3, Ripping letter from Claudia. Slacked about. Beats and Bry come down after tea and bring shoes and braces. Bed early.
Aug 20th. Reveille at 5.30. Brekker at 6.30, Parade at 8, carry out an attack up a hill. After lunch shave. Write to Claudia. Slack about. Get a Pass and go up to 22 Butler Avenue. Bed early.
Aug 21st. Reveille at 5. Parade 6.30. Brekker. It was announced we were going away. Sent note to Beats. Wrote letters, After lunch Beats and Pen come down, also Bry. Old Hallers comes over. Leave Harrow 6.15pm. Get to Southampton and embark on Braemar Castle about midnight.
[Extract from letter]
Aug 23rd. Woke at 8am. Brekker. Dried clothes. Tried to talk French. Various fatigues. Wrote letters and had a fairly slack day. Fall in at 8pm., King's message read out. Marched to station and had a great reception on the way, entrained in cattle trucks (37 in ours) at about 12.30am. Started at 2am. Got as much sleep as possible,
Aug 24th. Still in cattle trucks. Stopped for brekker at Rouen, lunch at Amiens, finally arrive at Le Cateau about 6.30pm. Detrain and start marching about 7.30pm. arrive in camp about 10.30pm., put on Outpost Duty, on sentry from midnight to 1am. Sleep like the dead (marched about 10 miles).
Aug 25th. Get up about 5am., have a wash and dress in a hurry. March about a mile and have brekker then take up a position and wait for the Germans. Waited till 2pm. and nothing happens. Go back and dig trenches all afternoon and evening. German gunfire seen in distance, village set on fire; starts to rain, sleep in trenches, and slept till midnight,
Aug 26th. Start marching at midnight and arrive at Pierre a la Fontaine at about 4.30am. and rations given out. Start advancing about 5.30 and reach a railway embankment where we stay for a bit. Told to take off packs and advance to a sunken road, certain amount of M.G fire from the Germans. Told to fix bayonets and charge but after a hundred yards or so signalled to lie down. We were in a field of haycocks and I got behind one, a fair amount of M.G. and shell fire, top of my haycock blown off by a near one. Finally ordered to return to railway embankment where I collected my pack. A corporal (Champion) told to take four men, of whom I was one, and go back half way to the village and from a flank cover the retirement of the Regiment from the embankment to the village. We watched the retirement and the German shrapnel playing over them and when they were all back to the village, we also retired going along a sunken road and thereby escaped the German fire, assembled in the village square told by the C.O. that we had to fight to the last man etc., as the French who should have come up by 3pm. had not done so; also ordered to take off packs. Took up various positions and were eventually relieved some time after dark.
Aug 27th. Sleep in barn till 2am. Fall in and march till 8.30am., told we should have a three hour halt but turned out by shrapnel after an hour, but did buy some food in a shop. March till 6.30pm. Get some food but fell in again. At 10.30pm., taken on Artillery limbers, on move all night.
Aug 28th. Arrive somewhere about 5am. and have brekker. Heavy gunfire in distance between 8 and 10am. Fall in at 10am. and act as escort to guns. Stop for a halt about 7pm., get about three hours sleep, Start retreating again about 2am.
Aug 29th. March all night. Stop for brekker at about 8am. and have a halt. March on then halt. Hear gunfire and see aeroplane race. March on till 2pm., sleep in wet field, move on at 4pm. and march till 11.55 get letters food and drink, halt till 3am. (Germans said to be encircled by the French).
Aug 30th. Get up about 3.30am. and dry shirt, buy bread and have a wash. March out at 7am. and continue till about 3pm. for lunch. Go on again and march for miles till finally anchor down in a village (Pierrefonds) at 10pm. Get drink, food and smokes.
Aug 31st. Start at 7am. march about seven miles and have lunch in a wood. Go on another five miles and anchor outside a village. Get some tea and straw.
SEPTEMBER 1914Sept 1st. Get up at 6am. and have brekker. Some of our cavalry caught napping but get their own back. March out of village and take up a position at about 9.30am. Retire at about 1 pm. and march all afternoon and evening, bivouac in village, put on picquet (sic).
Sept 2nd. Rise at 1am, and wait till about 2.30am., on the march till about midday, reach a village and have lunch. Wash and do a bit of looting and have a capital supper. Clean up and doss down. Waken up to go on Guard on H.Q. Fall in again at 12.30am.
Sept 3rd. March all night with various halts till we arrive at Lagny at about midday. Get food and bivouac. Letters arrive, have a fairly slack day, letter from Claudia; good night's rest.
Sept 4th. Spend most of day answering yesterday's mail. Parade at 4pm. and march about eight miles to another bivouac; get down to it fairly soon.
Sept 5th. Stand to Arms at about 3.30am. Paraded at 4.30am. and move off. After about five miles halt and have a feed at Rothchild's Chateau, March 3 more miles and reach another bivouac, cook some bully and slack about. Have a good night's rest,
Sept 6th. Rouse at 4.30am., parade at 5.30am. Germans retiring so we follow, March till about midday, two hours halt then go on again till we bivouac again at about 5pm. Get some eggs and milk and have a 'good feed'. Go to sleep about 7pm.
Sept 7th. March from 4.40am. to 6am. Get some more milk also some butter for brekker, absolute bliss. Go on Picquet at 8am. March off at 11am. and keep going with various halts till 4.30pm. when the Germans are reported to be in sight. Halt for 'Council of War', their guns in action for a few minutes. We bivouac.
Sept 8th. Didn't start till about 8am. then march and halt and so on till about 4pm. it comes on to rain. At about 5pm. we are put into a barn, rain stops so we go on picquet. Get some bacon cooked, given half a dot of stale bread.
Sept 9th. March out at 3.45am., no rations issued. Big battle in progress, heavy rifle and gun fire, we are in reserve. Get same tea and make it. German stragglers reported in a village to our front so we line a wall and wait, village on fire and being shelled. At about 2.30pm. go down into village picking and eating peaches on the way in. Wait at foot of village then bivouac in park. The village was La Pierre a la Fontaine.
Sept 10th. Up at 3.30am. March out at 5am. and move into the village and halt there. Found two pots of jam, place looted by the Germans. Put on fatigues on pontoon bridge. Buy some new bread and have a feast with the jam. Put on picquet in the village and get peaches and tomatoes; come off picquet at 7pm. and go back to the bridge and have a sleep.
Sept 11th. Get up at 4.30am. and get a fire going and cook bacon for brekker. Start marching at 8.45am. and go on with no long halts, Starts raining at 1.30pm., end up in a barn at about 6.30pm. The Regiment is miles away. Eat last of bread and jam and doss down; this is at St. Quentin a Drue.
Sept 12th. Start at 7am. and go on with intermittent rain, but better halts, in awful mud till 6.30pm. and again finish up in a barn; doss down till 4.30am.
Sept 13th. Rouse at 4.30am. Get a fire going and have some bacon and tea. March out about 8.45am. and get to Bucy le Long, wait about there as the Germans are shelling the river (Somme) bridge. Get across about 6.15pm. and take up position in a wood on top of a very steep hill, raining hard; eventually go back to village about 10.30pm., doss down in a barn.
Sept 14th. Rouse at 3.30am. and Stand to Arms, march out about 7am. in rain and act as escort to French artillery, cadge another bit of baccy; heavy artillery fire the whole day. Germans said to be in a good position. Move off about 2.30pm. and take up a position on top of the hill for the night. Heavy gunfire all day, comes on to rain, about one hours sentry-go, spend a wet night.
Sept 15th. Stand to Arms at 4am. and try to get warm, a little baccy issued, dig to get warm and also to get cover from rain and shells. Gun fire continued all day, bits of shell dropping amongst us. Go down the hill to the village to get water, comes on to rain again. Move off about 8pm. to relieve platoon on our left front on Outpost Duty, spend a muddy night in a copse. French on our left made an unofficial night attack, a very badly wounded Frenchman brought back into our little copse, shouts and raves all night.
Sept 16th. Relieved at 4am. and come back. Dig holes and make a fire, more baccy issued and another mail comes up. Cigarettes and Chocolate at last, two letters from Claudia. Make some stew and have a fairly slack day. Go back to our 'holes' of yesterday, spend a sound night.
[Extract from letter]
Sept 17th. Stand to Arms at 4am. Get fire going and make grub. Another mail up with more chocolates and cigarettes, no letter from Claudia. Comes on to rain like hell and continues all day till about 6pm. Move out to the copse again at 7.30pm. but to a better trench, French make a morning attack (?), very cold, shell fire all day,
Sept 18th. Relieved at about 5am. and return to holes of the 16th. Make stew; go down to village for water, dig up some spuds, write to Hichens, move back our old holes of the 17th., comes on to rain about 9pm. Have to turn out and help get an 18 pdr. into position in the front line at 1am. spend a very wet night.
Sept 19th. Got up about 5am. and lit fire to try and get warm but only got wet. Return to hole till rain stops at about 6am., cook bacon and get dry, enlarge hole. Another mail and letter from Claudia. Some fresh beef issued. Slack afternoon but very cold, improve my bit of trench. Move out to the copse at 6pm., spend a very chilly night,
Sept 20th. On sentry from 2.30 to 4.30am. Come back from Copse about 5am., make some tea and cook bacon, shell pitches in our 'kitchen', dig out a piece. Find a fresh 'hole' and improve it, sort out haversack. Some rain, read and slack, put on fatigue at 2pm. to fetch faggots from the village; lie and read, make tea. Shift round to other place; night alarm and stand to arms about 8pm. but nothing happens; intermittent rain. Gave a pipe to Artillery officer.
Sept 21st. On sentry from 1 to 2am. Stand to Arms at 4am., make tea, stand to arms again but false alarm. Have brekker, baccy and mail arrives. Go down to for water; "Zeppelen" sighted. The Weekly Times arrives. Vincent takes over the platoon from Frankie Bradshaw. March out to copse in evening. Big battle on, somewhere.
Sept 22nd. Come back from copse, have a slack day and nothing much happens, weather much finer. Move round to old places again. Stand to Arms for a short time but another false alarm. Sleep well but very cold.
Sept 23rd. On sentry from midnight to 2am. French supposed to be making an attack at dawn but nothing happens. A Coy of ours nearly fired on by mistake. Another mail, write letters and P.Cs. Ordered to fix bayonets when we go out to the copse in the evening, also to carry two pieces of corrugated iron roofing per man, making a hell of a noise but nothing happens. Spend a good night.
Sept 24th. Come back and cook some brekker. Reinforcements come up including Tim Holly with baccy. Go down and fetch water from village. Quiet day on the whole. Move round to old places at night. Mail comes up bringing a parcel which includes a towel, pants, socks and cigarettes; most acceptable. Go down to village again and have a wash and shave. On sentry 10 to midnight.
Sept 25th. Stand to Arms about 4.30am. Go down to village for rations, have brekker. Very hot again and spend a lazy day. Letter from Pen, go down to village again for water and have a bit of a wash. Move out to copse about 5.45pm. One or two shots fired. Sleep on the ground and sleep well.
Sept 26th. Come back to bivouac, have brekker. Go down for water, very hot again. Another mail comes up with a letter from Wogg and a packet of cigarettes from Beatrice and Bryan. One or two ricochets over but nothing much doing. Move back to old bivouacs at 6.30pm. and spend a very good night. Big battle on, on our left, starting about 8pm.
Sept 27th. Stand to Arms at 4.30am, and again at 6.30 but false alarm again. One or two shells about. The Times and James's parcel arrives. Write a 'family' letter addressed to James, also one to Wogg. Nothing much doing; go out to copse when it gets dark. Zouaves very restive all night, sleep well.
[Letter to his brother James]
Sept 28th. Stand to Arms 4.30am., leave copse at 5am. After Brekker sent down to do a Guard in the village; have to come up again to distribute Beats's cigarettes. Go over the house and stroll around, very slack time, have tea, get supper ready consisting of tea, cheese, soup and stewed pears and peaches. Turned in for the night with a good fire kept going, not over much 'sentry'.
Sept 29th. Rouse at 5am. draw rations and have brekker. Get stew and char for lunch. Our 'relief' arrives and we go back to our old place. Letter from Sis, have tea, at 9.30pm. go out and dig in new trenches, Ham killed. Sleep in trenches.
Sept 30th. Come in at 4am. to Batt. H.Q. Cigarettes from Wogg and a letter from Pen. Have a nice slack day and sleep down in a cave, ripping and warm.
OCTOBER 1914Oct 1st. Stand to Arms at 4.30am. Build up trenches that had fallen in. Sentry at 10.45am. Maxims fire at German aerodrome and I guide the belts in for both of them, the guns being cocked up at a high angle, the only result of our firing was to render me quite deaf. Spend a pretty slack day. At 5.30pm. move out and go down the road. Germans try to rush the outpost position at 11pm, but are repulsed.
Oct 2nd. Stand to Arms at 4.45am. Go down for rations and then go to Batt. H.Q. again. Have brekker. Letter from Claudia and Ruth; have a slack morning. Start digging in the new trench again from 2.15. to 4.15pm., come back for tea and have a quiet night in our old place.
Oct 3rd. Go down for rations. Finish letter to Claudia. Go carrying timber for new trench after lunch and after tea go out and occupy the new trench; several snipers about but nothing happens,
Oct 4th. Sentry 2.30 to 4.30am., relieved from 4.30am, and march back, take over the Rifle Brigade's old trenches, sleep in cave. Letter from Bay and parcel of chocs from Beats and cigarettes from Jim. Write letters, after lunch go timbering, finally anchor down for the night in the cave; more baccy issued.
Oct 5th. Stand to Arms at 4.45am. Go down for water. Move to our new 'house' on top. Mail arrives with two letters from Ula and my socks from Sis and a Tatler. Told to be ready to move but finally sleep in our new 'house'. Go down for rations.
Oct 6th. Stand to Arms at 4.30am. Go down for rations. Told we have to be ready to move. Have lunch early, sleep and play Whist down our cave in the evening. Finally we move off at about 7.30pm. and march till 11.30pm. anchoring up in some caves near a private house.
Oct 7th. Sleep till about 6am. After brekker mail comes up, socks from Sis and baccy and Peps; various letters including ones from R.M. and F.G. Blankets issued and we move into the woods. Wash and shave, Rifle and Foot inspection at 12.30pm., after lunch rest then have tea. Another mail comes up with letter from Claudia and J's parcel of books, sleep till we move off at 11pm.
Oct 8th. Marched all night till we arrived at 3am. at Le Plessier Haut and sleep in a barn. Rouse at 7am., parade at 10am. for a Court Martial also have one hours Musketry parade. Write to Claudia, after lunch rest and have tea. March out at 4.30pm. and march all night going through Villers Coteret. Had a two hours halt with tea 8 to 10pm.
Oct 9th. Arrive somewhere at 1.30am. sleep till 9am., slack about in morning. March out at 1.30pm. and march till 7.30pm. when we anchor down in a Brush factory for the night (?)
Oct 10th. March out at 1pm. and keep going till about 7pm.; anchor down in barns near Compiegne.
Oct 11th. Entrain at 4.30am. Go through Liancourt, Amiens and Calais; detraining at Septamere (probably St. Omer) at 11.30pm. and wait in station.
Oct 12th. Marched from the railway station at 2.30am. and went for about two miles and then were billeted in a barn. Fall in again at 11.30am. and move off about 200 yards then embark on motor busses.
Oct 13th. Get out of motor busses at Hondeghem at 5.30am. and march to a bivouac and have brekker. Fall in again at 10am. and keep on the move till 7pm. in the rain, then into a billet and anchor down.
Oct 14th. Woken at 4.30am. and Stand to Arms. Fall in and dig trenches, back for brekker. Letter from Claudia. Again go and dig trenches. Get a pack from a dead Jock (Seaforth Highlander). March out at 11.30pm. and hang about in the villages as we are not far from the Germans, finally anchor down in a big stable.
Oct 15th. Rouse at 4am. and get brekker. Stand to Arms at 6am. Mail arrives with letters from Pen and Ula. Stay at stables all morning till midday when we move down the road and stay there till 5.30pm. when we do a reconnaissance. Get back to barn and sleep at about 2am.
[Letter to his sister "Sis"]
Oct 16th. Rouse at 5am., brekker. Mail arrives with woolly helmet (Balaclava) from Beats, gloves from Ula and various papers and letters. Stay in barn all day till 5pm. when we move off and picquet a bridge by a village (Pont le Nieppe), cunning mouse (?), sentry 7 to 9pm. Dig trenches 10 to 2am. sleep till 5.30am.
Oct 17th. Roused at 5.30am. Dig trenches 7 to 9am. Return to bridge. Mail arrives with Claudia's parcel and also pipe and baccy from Beats and various other letters and a pair of pants. After lunch go on 'police duty' in village stopping refugees coming back in case some of them are spies, most unpleasant; stay there till 6pm. was given coffee etc. Sleep in barn draw rations at 8pm. and get Pen's baccy back to barn, sleep in barn.
Oct 18th. Rouse at 5.30am. and move to bridge again at 6pm. then on to Nieppe and have brekker. March again at 11.30am to Armentiere and wait at the railway station in reserve. Make tea, sleep in the booking office.
[Extract from letter]
Oct 19th. Rouse at 5am, and move out to a field where we bivouac. Pay day (10 francs). Letters from Pen and papers arrive. Move off at about 5pm. and anchor up in a Rope factory. Wogg's Guides baccy arrives.
[Extract from letter]
Oct 20th. Rouse at 5am. Mail arrives with letters from Beats and various papers from Ula. Move out at 2.30 and march to Ploegesteert which we reach at 6.30pm. anchor down in a barn.
[Extract from letter]
Oct 21st. Rouse about 3.30am. and march about two miles then go through Ploegesteert wood to retake trenches lost by the Inniskillen Fusiliers in Le Cheer. Cross the open space between the wood and the western edge of the village without being shot at, but thereafter a good many bullets flying about. Work our way up the village and finally retake the trenches. Our company (A) took 126 German prisoners and released 45 Inniskillens who had been locked in a cellar. Stay in the retaken trenches until relieved at 6pm. when we march back to St. Yves. Sleep in a cottage. When I took my boots off in the cottage I found that the abscess on the instep of my foot had burst and the foot was now quite comfortable after being very painful for days. I'd quite forgotten the foot during the excitement and fright of the attack. We made this attack in full F.M.O. with fifty extra rounds of ammunition and in greatcoats sodden with rain.
Oct 22nd. Rouse at 5am, and move back to village in support but do not come into action, a certain amount of bullets whizzing around, march back to wood. Mail arrives with socks and P.P. also letter from Sis and papers from Ula. Have a slack day. Fall in at 5pm. and march to trenches on outskirts of St. Yves, do a little digging. There's a lot of noise and firing at 9.45pm. to 10.30pm. but no damage done except to the barrel of my rifle which I appear to have fired with the plug of four by two in the barrel, to keep out the rain, still there.
Oct 23rd. Stand to Arms at 5am. Get brekker cooked in a cottage about forty yards behind the trench. They start shelling at about 9.30am. and go on for about two hours, our cottage hit twice but otherwise no damage done. Write letters and improve trench. After tea go for rations. Acquire parrot.
Oct 24th. More heavy rifle fire starting at about 1.20am. and going on for about two hours. Our guns shoot at a barn about 400 yds. away, general attack expected so improve trench. Mail arrives with baccy from Beats and Bryan, books from James and cigarettes from Winifred Harford. Carry on with the trench after tea, nothing happens however. Sentry from 8 to 9pm. and from midnight to 1am.
Oct 25th. Looted rabbits for lunch. Clean rifle and improve trench. Letters from Sis and Wogg. Write letters after lunch, try and sleep but unable to so improve trench. Sniping and shelling most of day, five houses in St. Yves on fire. Comes on to rain and spend a rotten night, more firing but only for about half an hour.
Oct 26th. Improve my dugout considerably with doors and shutters from the cottages behind the trench. Letter from Pen. Shelling and sniping most of the day, carry on with the trench and dugout and spend a very comfortable night as the result.
Oct 27th. Spend a dampish day and spend most of it inside my dugout. Letter from Ula and lozenges from Beats. Dig a hole in the evening, a volley of three shells came pretty close.
Oct 28th. Go and fetch faggots also get new boots and mail including a paper from Ula, cigarettes from Bay, a waistcoat and razor from Sis. Have a slack morning. Black and white dog shot between the lines. Doble claim to have shot a couple of Huns otherwise quiet except for some sniping and one or two shells. The Hampshires relieve us at 6.30pm and we spend a good night in a barn. The Hampshires were attacked during the night and all the men in our trench were either killed or captured. Letters from Sis and Young.
Oct 29th. Stand to Arms at 5am. Frankie Bradshaw takes over A Coy again, inspects us at midday; route march at 2pm. Get hair cut and also some butter. Comes on to rain in the evening but have a tophole night in our barn.
Oct 30th. Stand to Arms at 5am. Heavy shell fire in morning. Have a quiet day, read and write home. Fall in and go down to village in support and stay there till 3.45pm. then move back to barn.
[Letter to his sister "Beats"]
Oct 31st. Move out at 10am. and go in support of the Inniskillens, we line the ditch of the road to Messines and have one or two Jack Johnsons over. Move away from the road and go up to another barn and stay there till things quiet down at about 9.30pm. then march back to our own barn and sleep like the dead.
1914 NOVEMBERNov 1st. Move out from barn at 2.30am. and dig till 4.45am., then move to a trench where we stay all day under Jack Johnsons and Whizz Bangs, a most unpleasant time but managed to get some sleep.
Nov 2nd. Move out to another trench facing North towards Messines to guard the flank of the Battalion, this means we get enfiladed by the Germans. An unpleasant day, almost as bad as Ligny. Joe Stead gets hit in the back by a shrapnel bullet as he was bending down in the trench to do up his bootlace; how the shrapnel missed me I don't know because I was standing on top of the trench, in a direct line and between Joe and the shrapnel burst. Frank Bradshaw also wounded but only slightly. Stand to Arms at 5.15pm. as an attack is expected and continue under Arms till we are relieved at 8.30pm. Move back to wood and cook bacon and tea.
Nov 3rd. Brekker about 6am., shelled out of wood so move further in and dig trenches for ourselves. Maiks comes up with belt and lozenges from Beats, peppermints, chocolates and mitts from Pen, books from James, and letters from Sis, Pen, Nurse Butler and Hitchens. Send souvenirs home. Sleep undisturbed but in our equipment.
Nov 4th. A dull day, have a wash and a shave. Nothing much doing. Dig trenches from 4 to 6pm. It starts to rain, build a house but not much good so bivouac in wood.
Nov 5th. Rouse at 6am., brekker at 6.30. Dig trenches at 7 to 9am. Get straw. Treated to fireworks in the evening. Fall in suddenly and march off but a false alarm so we return.
Nov 6th. Rouse at 5am, and cook brekker. Detailed for putting up barbed wire but it was cancelled. Send back more souvenirs, improve trenches, After lunch go for a short Route March of an hour only. Make tea then go into advanced trenches. Dig and on sentry most of the night. This was at St. Yves.
Nov 7th. Stand to Arms at 5am. Dig again, snipers in rear as well as in front, Jack Cove shot, rather a trying day; relieved at 8pm. and go in reserve; put in charge of a guard. Parcel of books from James and mittens.
Nov 9th. Stand to Arms at 6am. Letters-from old Hollins and Pen, Do some cooking then go on with digging, Talk and read most of the day, one or two shells over. Move at 5pm. into quite good trenches. Send off souvenirs and my wrist watch, which has done yeoman service but had sustained a cracked glass and wanted cleaning.
[Letter to Mr Hollins, his prep school headmaster]
Nov 10th. Cook brekker at about midday in a 'devil'. Write to Pen and Mrs. C (?), Talk to Sgt. Webber. Parcel of Army and Navy cigarettes with no name of the sender inside, papers from James and Ernest Hall and letters. Early Stand to Arms and on sentry the first part of the night; sleep well.
Nov 11th. Go and get water, one or two surprise shells short. Letters from Wogg, and raisins and socks from Sis; change into the socks, using the old ones as foot warmers. It comes on to rain and we have to move up to the front trench. I'm detailed to take four men on to a listening post between the lines. A shocking night of rain and storm. I am the only one to get any sleep.
Nov 12th. Come back from the Listening Post at dawn, help to dig a "Jack Johnson" proof trench. Knock off and try to go to sleep in the new J.J. proof trench but one of our 4.5 hows drops a shell on the parapet over my feet and buried me from the waist down. Shelled intermittently during the day. Relieved at dark and move into the flank trench again, facing Messines.
Nov 13th. Sleep in a splendid 'booby-hutch' and enjoy ourselves there till the Germans blow the side in (for an account of this incident see November 8th.), one or two other close shells, it comes on to rain in a bloody manner and get soaking wet. Eventually relieved by the Rifle Brigade and we got back into rotten bad trenches in the wood, a shivering cold night.
Nov 14th. Wake up at 6am. and try and get warm, have some brekker. One or two shells over but none very close, one or two rifle bullets flying about. Rain simply awful so start to build a booby-hutch. Move at 8.15 into billets in a farm, bliss.
Nov 15th. The first snow of the Winter. Parcel from Aunt Addie. Have some cocoa and bread and butter for brekker. Shave and wash, dry clothes and sew on buttons at the Farm. Detailed for guard on Div. H.Q. at Nieppe, fall in at 1.30pm. and arrive at Nieppe at about 5pm., out of gun fire at last. Mount the guard, then manage to get some sleep. Visiting Rounds at 11pm.
Nov 16th. Rather a box up over our brekker. A new guard arrives to relieve us at 10am. but I stay on. Write two letters for Gulliford (who couldn't write), write to Cousin Janie and Aunt Addie. Fall in for Baths, have a warm bath in vats in a brewery, about eight or ten men to a vat, we are also given a clean change of underwear handing over our dirty lot. March back about 5pm. and have tea. Sleep on a spring mattress in the Guard Roam.
Nov 17th. Get up pretty late and don't wash. Have brekker. Read and write letters, slack about all day. In the evening go to an Estaminet and have supper. Sleep again on the spring mattress.
[Letter to his brother James]
Nov 18th. Rise and have a wash, take over guard for Sgt. Webber, have a pretty slack day. Several prisoners and stragglers brought in. Sleep on a feather bed. Visiting Rounds at 11.30pm. Meaden caught sleeping on sentry.
Nov 19th. Come off guard at 9.30am., have a wash. Letters from Sis and Cassidy and parcel from Pen. Go out and get lunch. Write to Cassidy and Ernest Hall. Get kit ready to move. March out at 4.30pm. and it snows like mad. Arrive in trenches in Ploegsteert Wood. Spend a rotten night in a tiny hole with Tim Holley and manage to get a little sleep, much to Tim's amazement.
Nov 20th. Punch from James and letters from Sis, Beats and Cassidy. Dig a new 'house' (temporary) and spend a better but still cold night.
Nov 21st. Worked on new 'house' early until interrupted by shell fire, went on again when it got quiet and finally finished towards evening. spend a good night in our new 'house' but rather a tight squeeze.
Nov 22nd. Spent a quiet morning in 'bed'. Parcel from Mrs. Wiseman and A. & N. cigarettes. P.P. from Aunt Emma, read nearly all day, a few shells over towards evening. A noisy time during the night. Webber has a nasty go of Rheumatism.
Nov 23rd. Spend morning in our 'house' and read, ripping letter from Wogg, write to her. Nothing much happens. A fresh lot of London Rifle Brigade, including one Camberley chap, come up to us for instruction.
Nov 24th. Not so cold, improved 'house'. Letters from Ula and Vi Hollins, finish letter to Wogg and write to Aunt Emma and Mrs. Wiseman. Snipers and Maxim very impudent while I was on sentry.
Nov 25th. It rains, so spend the morning 'indoors'. Mail arrives with underclothes and letter from Sis, mitts from Ruth and P.P. from James. One or two shells over and snipers very impudent again.
[Letter to his brother James]
Nov 26th. Cigarettes from the Golds; books, soap and a letter from James. Our Artillery shell a house about 80 yards from our trenches, bricks and oddments fly all over the place, some dropping pretty close. Frank Bradshaw returns and takes over our Company again. Not a bad day.
Nov 27th. Parcel of mitts and lozenges from Sis, cigarettes from Beats and a handkerchief from Pen. On coming off sentry at 4am. discovered a leak in our 'house' and have to 'move out', dig holes to try to cure the leak without success. Hear from home that my souvenirs have arrived. We move into reserve trenches.
Nov 28th. Letter from Sis. Have a hasty brekker and then go on fatigues for the R.E., back for lunch. Talk in the afternoon, fall in at 5pm. to march back to Nieppe, a hellish march, anchor up for the night in a Hemp factory near the Pont de Nieppe. Go on sentry.
Nov 29th. Letter from Pen. After brekker go and have another hot bath in the vats. Move to a disused cinema and have lunch there; come back and go out, see Pillyer (?); have a beefsteak at the Estaminet, come back and have a very good night.
Nov 30th. Letters from Eddie Fox, Salter, Sis and Hubert Pelly. Allowed out after getting Pay, so go and have a good lunch. Fall-in at 2.30pm. and march up to reserve trenches in Ploegsteert Wood, not a bad night.
DECEMBER 1914Dec 1st. Go and superintend Wood Carrying for the R. E. from 8.15am. to midday. Meet Tillyer. On a ration party at 1.30pm. till about 4.30pm. Letter from Beats and Bryan and a knife from Pen. Move up to front trench in evening and find the whole place flooded.
Dec 2nd. Start trying to get rid of the flood water by damming but it doesn't work also we were interrupted by our Artillery dropping a lot of shells short. Letters from Cousin Janie, Wogg, Sis, Pen, Beats and Christopher. Read. Not much sleep,
Dec 3rd. Have to go to Div. H.Q. for a Summary of Evidence to be taken for a Court Martial. Work on breastwork on return. Times and toffee from James. Start on a new 'house' and work far into the night. Frequent showers.
Dec 4th. Work like mad on the new 'house', felling trees and plastering; get it pretty well finished.
Dec 5th. Letter from Pen and a letter and a Punch from Bryan. A miserable day of rain. Have to go into Romarin to give evidence for a Court Martial; buy some food on the way back to Ploegsteert. Go and fetch some wood for the 'floor'. Very cold during the night.
Dec 6th. Wake up devilish cold do a bit of Pumping and Damming. Our Artillery shell a supposed German Maxim position, shells falling well over us, thank goodness. A nice sunny day but no mail.
Dec 7th. Letter and cigarettes from Ernest Hall. Spend the early morning in our booby hutch but a flood is imminent. Rain comes on again, We move into so called Winter Huts in the Wood at about 5pm.
Dec 8th. Letters from Sis and Cassidy. Fell trees in morning, slack about in afternoon, turn in early.
Dec 9th. A Punch from Ruth, a letter and lozenges from Beats, and a letter from Pen. Put out barbed wire in afternoon in the wood an easy time. March back to Pont de Nieppe about 5pm.
Dec 10th. Pipe from James, parcel of books from Wogg, letters from Sis and Champion's friend (?). Rifle inspection, wash and write letters. Go out to Madame Demouliere from 3.30pm to 5.30pm. Sleep well and dry.
Dec 11th. After brekker Mrs. Barclay's book arrives, groceries from Aunt Edith, socks etc. from Sis and a letter from Bertie Pell. Write and read; go out again 3.30 to 5.30pm.
Dec 12th. Letter and Punch from Wogg, letter from Pen and The Times from Ruth. Write and read. March out at 1pm. to go up to the trenches. Very muddy trench, sleep on a ration biscuit box.
Dec 13th. No mail, spend most of day reading, same rain. Sleep again on biscuit box and fall off.
Dec 14th. Cake and butter from Ruth, letter from Cousin Janie and Sis; another mail comes up in the evening. Exeter Roll from Bernard and another letter from Sis; move back into a barn at 3.30pm. for a two day rest.
Dec 15th. Cigarettes from Eddie Fax, letter from Sis. Spend day reading and sleeping in the barn, rotten weather, write letters.
Dec 16th. On fatigues in morning, filling in old trenches; guns busy again. Move up to the trenches at 2.30pm. have quite a good night's rest, better weather.
Dec 17th. Aunt Lucie's budget, lozenges from Beats, and a letter from Nurse Butler. Not much rain during the day but some at night. Two chaps wounded by snipers.
Dec 18th. Punch and books from James and Ruth, chocolates from Dolly Pell, letter from Sis and Christmas Card from Derek Cooper. One or two shells over, some rain. Relieved at 3.30pm. but have to come back again. Move into a different 'hut'. Eight casualties today.
(When I joined the Somersets at Googeraght Barracks Colchester, Bonning was an Officer's servant, but was returned to duty to give him a chance of becoming an N.C.O. He was one of those men who can always joke and laugh no matter how adverse conditions are, from the elements, physical exhaustion, hunger and thirst, or danger, and with no immediate propect of these conditions being alleviated.
He had been promoted up to Sergeant when he took part in the attack on the trench in front of the N.E. end of Ploegsteert Wood. The attack was abortive, the German trench being an abandoned one, and many wounded were lying in No Man's Land. Bonning had brought in two wounded himself, being himself wounded in the arm and a second time in the leg; he was getting down into his own trench when a third bullet hit him in the head.)
Dec 20th. Fine morning for a change. Have brekker and Plum Pudding. Letter from Wogg and Pen. One or two shells over but nothing much. Relieved in the evening.
Dec 22nd. Packet from Farnell, Marron Glacees and letter from Beats, London Opinion from Cassidy, sent to Div. H.Q. at Nieppe in the Morning to learn how to throw Bombs from the C.R.E. Very casual instruction, it was on Hales No.1 and No. 2 Grenades. Have a good meal and then back up to the trenches again.
Dec 23rd. Got some sleep, It snows followed by rain. Play Whist and read all day., Letter from Robin H. Gordon, Pen, Beats and Bryan, Constance Snell and Eldred. Christmas Card from Norris and Punch from Wogg. An exciting sentry-go (?). Some rain.
Dec 24th. Played Whist and read. Letters from G.D. Wood, Pen, a box of biscuits from Beats and Bryan, a Punch from James, letter from B.M. and Christmas Cards from Aunt Emma. Shifted to a farm at 3.30pm., went to the cottage and made tea, talked.
Dec 25th. There was a hard frost during the night. By mutual understanding there was no firing in the front line by either side, the quiet sounded very strange. A letter from Murray Glynn and a vest from Beats. Write P.C.s. Go down to village and then return to the cottage for tea and have a Sing Song. My watch comes back from home. Didn't feel too good.
Dec 26th. Another hard frost. Letters from Mrs. Reid and Wogg, and a parcel from Aunt Addie and papers from Sis. Move up to old breastworks and have a not too bad night but it comes on to rain.
Dec 27th. More rain, Write letters and read in the morning then go rabbitting, but we have no luck. Christmas Card from Wogg and the Times.
[Letter to his sister "Pen"]
Dec 28th. Start and finish the Wall of Partition. Fatigues and of course it rains. Cigarettes and a Punch arrive. Go up to the front line at 3.30pm. and sleep in our old hutch.
Dec 29th. Two surprise shells of ours go over, the first since Christmas Eve, there was still a truce as regards firing in the trenches and it was queer to walk about on the top and see the Germans doing the same. P.C. from Pen, weather clears up. Spend night on a biscuit box keeping our fire in the trench going. A fire in the trench was only possible because of the truce.
Dec 30th. Chocolate from Win Harford and Winter's Pie from Mrs. Reid and a sponge bag from Beats and a Punch from James. Not a bad day and no shell fire. Relieved by B Coy, at 4pm. and go down to billets in Ploegsteert, we get in an empty private house, not bad.
Dec 31st. Letters from Sis and Pen. The truce is over and the war starts again. In the evening moved down to the Piggeries. Have food with some of the L.R.B.
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