Category Archives: May 1916

All diary entries written in May 1916

31 May 1916; Wednesday

[At top of page above date – ] Big North Sea Battle1 Queen Mary, Indefatigable, Invincible, and many other ships lost.

Reveille at 4 o’clock. Paraded 5.15 for breakfast. Marched to station. Left 6.40. Beautiful country. Past Nottingham, Leicester, Sansbury†2, Oxford, Winchester and to Southampton. Arrived Southampton 1.153. Weren’t in ship until 5.15. Shaved and washed in strange conditions. Went aboard “Karnak4 at 5.15. Received lifebelts. Saw two aeroplanes.

Sailed for France

Left Southampton about 8 o’clock. Very fine night. Sunset over before past the Isle of Wight. Coast looked splendid. Two destroyers escorted us out. Watched searchlights playing over the 3 boats and over the harbour. Enjoyed the sailing until about 10 o’clock and then lay down on deck to sleep. Pretty cold. Up two or three times. Slept pretty well considering.

Had stripes taken off 5.

  1. The “Big North Sea Battle” was of course Jutland

  2. I can’t find any Sansbury between Leicester and Oxford (or indeed anywhere), nor any location to match any possible interpretation of the shorthand, though it is comparatively clearly written. The troop train may have taken a circuitous route to avoid the timetabled traffic, but it must have passed through some station which ALL noted or remembered as something like Sansbury. Even Aylesbury, which is just about plausible on pre-Beeching railway lines, is simply not deducible from the shorthand outline. Wednesbury might be just about possible route-wise, though in that case Birmingham might well have been mentioned. Many troop trains from the North to Southampton converged on Banbury, where the big Grimsbury muntions factory adjoined the railway station, and while neither of these names fits the shorthand, this was very probably ALL’s route. (DL)

    A longer note on the mystery of Sansbury may be found here

  3. The map shows the entire journey from Sheffield (A), via Nottingham (B), Leicester (C), Grimsbury (D – see previous footnote and the longer explanation here), Oxford (E) and Winchester (F) to Southampton (G). 

  4. The Karnak, a French passenger ship, was operated by Messageries Maritimes, Marseille. She was torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-32 in the Mediterranean on November 27th, 1916 about 70 miles SE of Valetta, Malta when en route from Marseilles and Malta to Saloniki. 

  5. ALL had been promoted to Lance Corporal in September 1915. It was common for soldiers with acting rank to revert to their former rank on deployment to the field. According to an interview he gave in 1976, while he was aboard Karnak ALL was ordered to remove his stripes by “a strange officer who didn’t know me at all”. In the same interview, he went on to say “I am the only man in France who went through the war Lance Corporal acting Private with Lance Corporal’s pay.” It would appear that ALL’s demotion from “acting” Lance Corporal may have been a mistake. 

30 May 1916; Tuesday

On parade most of the day receiving kit and suchlike. Went to town and bought a brooch for Franchie. Returned to Inwoods’. Went out with Franchie to Five Ridges1 to pick daisies. Gave her the brooch. Mrs Inwood gave me shaving material and some cakes. Stayed pretty late. Wrote in both autograph albums and birthday books. Left 11 o’clock.

Went to bed about midnight.

Last night in Sheffield.

  1. “Five Ridges” doesn’t seem likely, but I can find nothing on the map to which the shorthand could be stretched. 

27 May 1916; Saturday

On parade in the morning as usual. Went to Inwoods’ after dinner and missed train through being late. Went by bus to Hallam Gate1 and walked to Wharncliffe Cross. Fine day but thundery at tea time, but we had splendid day and walked back. Played games and asked conundrums on the way back. Leishman and I went for bread and had some cakes given to us. Stayed until late. Had grand day out.

Leishman put off the draft.

  1. ALL’s last “grand day out” before his departure to France was “splendid”, and sounds like a comparatively rural walk, so it would be nice to trace it exactly; but it’s difficult. Leishman and ALL (and who else?) must have gone first from the Hillsborough Barracks to the Inwoods’ house, in Broughton St, Hillsborough. Then they “missed train” (or “missed Brian”? but no Brian is named anywhere in the Diary); the nearest rail stations were at Parkwood and Wadsley Bridge, on the line between Sheffield and Penistone, to the NW. So they got a bus; to the same intended destination? The Diary seems to say ‘to Hallam Gate’ (though ‘Gate’ isn’t certain). There was a Hallam Gate Road and a big Hallam Gate house in the Crookes district, 1½ miles due W of the city centre, but ‘Wharncliffe’ names occur out of the city, NW from Hillsborough, so it would be illogical to get a bus to Hallam Gate Road to start walking there. The location of Wharncliffe Cross itself has not been traced, but one’s best guess is that it might be at or near Wharncliffe Wood, NE of Oughtibridge (A6102, 5 miles NW of Sheffield), about 3-4 miles for the walk back to Broughton Street or the barracks.