Monthly Archives: June 2016

30 June 1916; Friday

This is an extract from Arthur Linfoot’s own transcription of his diary, written in 1976.

(This and the next few days written from memory when we left the Line for a rest. It was all very confusing and we lost all sense of time.)

Up at 7 o’clock and we went up the bank for breakfast as usual. Lovely summer morning and we were aware of the contrast between the peaceful country scene behind us and the war a mile or two in front of us to the East. Received orders for stretcher bearers of B and C sections (I was in C) to go up the line tonight. Paraded in the afternoon and given two extra iron rations (3 altogether) and handed in our packs (valises) to the quartermaster’s store. A perfect June evening. Had a meal at 8.30. I read 23rd Psalm and a chapter from St. John’s Gospel. Detailed off in bearer squads and I was with Paddy Graham, Duggins and Leaky. Paraded in the farmyard. Getting dark; intensely exciting; very quiet. As we stood on parade a troop of cavalry passed through the village street, sabres hanging down sides of horses. Very dramatic and encouraging. Our brigade (57th Infantry) passed through the village and we joined them at about 10 p.m. Progress terribly slow due to congestion of masses of troops on narrow road. Frequent and long halts. Welshmen in our Division sang quietly most of the way. No sound from the guns tonight. Only one gun spoke out at long intervals. Paddy and I carried our stretcher most of the way. Reminded me of the book “The Invasion of 1910”. Lay down beside a broken down barn for a short time. Reached assembly trenches about midnight.

30 June 1916; Friday

Up at 7 o’clock. Had breakfast up at the field. Noticed how strange it was over to the left peaceful and to the right shells bursting. Received orders that B & C sections are ordered† <to> go up tonight. Paraded in the afternoon with skeleton equipment and received two days’ rations besides emergency rations. Fine night. Handed in pack. Read Bible1 the 23 Psalm and St. John2. Were detailed off in sections, Paddy, Leaky, Duggins and myself. Supper at 8.30. Saw a troop of cavalry go through the village, and then watched some aeroplanes being flushed† out. Decent gramophone playing some Welsh songs. Formed up at 10 o’clock. Marched off in the dark. Carried stretcher with party most of the way. Reminded me of “Invasion of 1910”3. Lay beside a broken down barn for a short time. Arrived reserve trench 12 o’clock.

ALL's pocket bible ALL's pocket bible

  1. We still have the morocco-leather pocket Bible, 12cm x 7cm x 2cm, which ALL carried throughout his service. It contains a pressed flower from a French field, and pencilled on the fly-leaf “A Linfoot 64061 RAMC 58th Fd Amb”, and “24 Herrington St, Sunderland, Durham”, with “47 Eldon St, Chester Rd” crossed out. (And in a deeply-regretted piece of vandalism, the title-page records in Biro the Army number, name and home address of the editor of these Diaries, who had this Bible with him during his National Service in Malaya, 1953-54.)

    See pictures above. 

  2. ALL’s Bible readings for the day: The 23rd Psalm – “The Lord is my sheperd…” – now popular at funerals and; St John’s Gospel – “In the beginning was the Word…”. 

  3. The Invasion of 1910 is a 1906 novel written by William Le Queux. Its subject is an imagined war starting with the invasion of England by Germany in 1910. Something in Le Queux’ description of a contemporary war seems to have resonated with ALL’s own experience on this particular evening. See also The Invasion of 1910 and Arthur Linfoot’s Library

The Invasion of 1910

TheInvasionOf1910_200The Invasion of 1910 is a novel by William Le Queux which originally appeared in serial form in the Daily Mail newspaper from 19 March 1906. It is one of the more famous examples of invasion literature.

The book takes the form of a military history and is centred on an invasion by the Germans, who have managed to land a force on the East Coast of England.

Arthur Linfoot does not record when (or indeed if) he had actually read the book, but he must have been at least familiar with its theme as he wrote, on 30 June 1916 (the eve of the first Somme offensive):

Listened gramophone playing some Welsh songs. Formed up at 10 o’clock. Marched off in the dark. Carried stretcher with party most of the way. Reminded me of “Invasion of 1910”.

29 June 1916; Thursday

This is an extract from Arthur Linfoot’s own transcription of his diary, written in 1976.

Walked up the bank for breakfast. Lee gave me a slice of bread – a nice change from biscuit. Standing by all day. In the evening walked with Lee and Duggins to the next village (Hénencourt) to the Y.M.C.A. there and counted 22 observation balloons in the air on the way there. Watched a German anti-aircraft gun shelling our planes and saw one shot down. Turned in about 9 o’clock.

29 June 1916; Thursday

Up at 7 o’clock. Washed in bucket. Walked up to the cooks’ place and had breakfast. Lee gave me some bread the night before. Had good breakfast. No letters. Saw some of the observation balloons up and watched one go down and go up again. Walked to the next village and visited the Y.M. Watched the Germans shelling an aeroplane – and miss it. Watched the shells bursting round Albert. Met a chap called Crooke who belongs to Castletown1. Had walk2 with Leaky, Duggins and Lee. Saw 22 Balloons up and one quite near. Watched Germans shelling aeroplanes last thing, and saw one brought down in the distance. Went to bed about 9 o’clock.

  1. Castletown: on N. bank of Wear, about 1¼ miles W of Southwick (Sunderland.)  

  2. In his 1976 transcription ALL says that this walk, presumably from Laviéville (A), was to “Hehencourt”, with an ‘n’ typed over or under the ‘h’, so it was probably Hénencourt (B), but could (just) be Béhencourt (C). The name is definitely not written in this diary entry. Hénencourt is 2km N of Laviéville, 9km W of Albert, ref H7; Béhencourt is some 15km W of Albert, N of the D929, ref G8

28 June 1916; Wednesday

This is an extract from Arthur Linfoot’s own transcription of his diary, written in 1976.

Up at 9 o’clock. Very heavy rain all night and all day. Wet through walking from billet up to plateau for meals. Our billet in a squalid farmyard where a shrewish wife blaggards us all day in shrill French we do not understand. To repay her, Charlie Ford, a lively Cornishman is trying to teach her little boy of about five years a few ugly English swearwords. Ordered to parade at 5 p.m. and then this order was countermanded. Bully and biscuits for midday meal. An R.E. told me the attack was postponed for forty eight hours owing to the heavy rain. Rain stopped in the evening and we walked to the end of the village and watched German shells bursting in Albert a few miles away. Most of the men playing housey-housey.

28 June 1916; Wednesday

[The pencilled shorthand of this day’s entry is exceptionally faded.]

Got up at 9 o’clock. Rained heavily. Met two [illegible word deleted by ALL] Sheffield men. Had to walk about a mile to the canteen and got wet through. Shaved and washed under difficulties. Rained all morning. Had orders to parade ready for the lines at 5 o’clock but orders subsequently cancelled. Had to walk up to the top of the bank for each meal. Bully1 and biscuits. Walked to the bottom of the village at night and watched the shells bursting over Albert. An Engineer told us that the attack had been put off for 48 hours on account of the wet. The men played House2 nearly all day. Received letter from Franchie Inwood.

Saw shells bursting first thing.

  1. “Bully”: Short for bully beef, more commonly known as corned beef, a staple of troops in WW1 and all later conflicts until quite recently

  2. “House”: housey-housey, the WW1 name for WW2 (and later) tombola; now known as bingo. 

27 June 1916; Tuesday

This is an extract from Arthur Linfoot’s own transcription of his diary, written in 1976.

Paraded as usual. It rained. We were told to get ready for moving. Helped to load waggons in the afternoon. Walked to the village in the early evening. Fell in and marched off at 6.40. Long march and guide lost his way and we had to sit down and wait until the officers found the right road again. Packs got heavy and hard going towards the end. Reached steep bank which the transport mules could not manage. Ordered to take off packs and push the waggons up the bank to help the mules in the dark. Reached a sort of “plateau”. It rained. Headquarters, tent sub division (dressing orderlies) and horse lines, stayed at the top. We stretcher bearers were marched down to the bottom into the village of Laviéville and billeted in a dirty barn. Finished the march at 1.40 a.m. A stray German shell hit the church as we marched through the village in the dark. Slept well.

A new map has been added – June 1916 – ALL’s movements since his arrival in France.

27 June 1916; Tuesday

Up as usual. Paraded first thing but it rained. We were told to get ready for moving. Had stew and biscuits for dinner. Helped to load waggons in the afternoon. Walked to the village at night. Packed up kit and marched off at 6.40. Long walk with few rests. Pack again heavy. Heard heavies1 towards the end of the journey. Lost way and had to sit down and wait for the officers finding the way. Arrived destination about 1.30. Had tea served with cheese and bread. Walked on to the billet. Was detailed off for the stretcher parties. Deserted barn. 2 tiers of beds. Slept well. Shell hit church tower as we passed. Sky lit up with the light of the guns. Very pretty.

Left Raineville. And arrived at Lavieville2.

  1. “Heavies”: heavy guns. The front line at the start of the first battle of the Somme was on the E. outskirts of Albert, and the main British sector of the battle straddled what is now the D929 – an old Roman road – towards Bapaume. 

  2. Laviéville (B), 5km W of Albert and about 20km E of Rainneville (A), just N of the D929; ref H8. See also June 1916 map (movements since arrival in France).