22 May 1917; Tuesday

Up at about 6.50. On duty as usual. Kept fairly busy. Off at night and went to the Pierrots. They were fairly good but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I have done concerts. With Gus Rodman and Dai Davies. Went to bed late as usual. A lot of guns1 going up the line.

  1. “A lot of guns”: this was in preparation for the Battle of Messines Ridge, which began on 7 June with the detonation of 19 mines of unprecedented size under the German lines (2 more are still there, unexploded.) On this occasion, the artillery barrage did not begin until the mines were blown, so that the Germans had no warning of the attack, which took place immediately after a comparatively short but intense bombardment. Apparently the Germans had not picked up any signs of the impending attack, though it seems from ALL’s diary that artillery movements were there to be seen.

    Passchendaele, or the 3rd Battle of Ypres, which began on 31 July, followed Messines Ridge, and besides its quasi-political objective (to relieve the French army, by then suffering from mutinies following the failure of Nivelle’s attack of mid-April – 9 May in the Reims/Chemin des Dames area and the associated British attack at Arras), it was intended at least to capture the higher ground to the south and east of Ypres, from which the Ypres salient was constantly threatened, and possibly to enable the capture of the Belgian sea-ports. The front line ran in an approximate semi-circle round the east side of Ypres, and from the southern point of this the Messines Ridge ran further southward.