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.
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.)
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”.
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.
Castletown: on N. bank of Wear, about 1¼ miles W of Southwick (Sunderland.) ↩
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. ↩
[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.
“Bully”: Short for bully beef, more commonly known as corned beef, a staple of troops in WW1 and all later conflicts until quite recently. ↩
“House”: housey-housey, the WW1 name for WW2 (and later) tombola; now known as bingo. ↩
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.
“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. ↩
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). ↩
On guard in the morning. Paraded with the guard. Tossed up and won for the officers’ guard. Wrote letter home in reply to one received. Had a bath in a biscuit tin. Also at on [sic: presumably ‘on at’] one o’clock and finished at 5 o’clock. Went to the village at night. Bought 3 handkerchiefs. Listened to a band of the Gloucesters in front of the village church. Rained later on in the evening. Heard guns again. Saw 12 observation balloons. Saw aeroplane go through the village on a waggon while band was playing.
Up shortly after 7 o’clock. Went to church parade and field service. Wrote letter to George Crawford and one to Ranald MacDonald. Counted 9 observation balloons up at night. Procession at the village church. Guns very heavy at night. Bonny calm night.
Received letter from Betty telling me that she understood1, but would like to keep on corresponding with me. I replied. Physical drill. [Some words about ‘drill’ crossed out by ALL.] Also foot and chest inspection in the morning. No parades in the afternoon. Wrote letter. Went to boxing contest at night and saw about 6 matches and some decent boxing. Went to bed early after talking a bit with Walsh. Saw 3 observation balloons up.
This letter from Betty may have been her reply to the letter to her written by ALL on 15th June and posted on 16th. Neither of those earlier diary entries offers any clue about the reason for Betty’s understanding. ↩