Category Archives: May 1917

All diary entries written in May 1917

30 May 1917; Wednesday

Up at 6.30. Very busy first thing. Did a bit French in the afternoon. Read a bit of Stacpoole’s novel1. Received another officer – R G A2. Fine onset†. Out at night with Dai Davies and Driver. We went to the concert hall where there was a lecture on Egypt by Bishop Gawain†. It was pretty interesting and the Army Group Commander was in the chair. An orchestra was in attendance and we sang two hymns. Sergeant Holmes went with us and when he saw the hymn books <he> came out again, and afterwards said it was a swindle advertising a lecture and then having hymns. Met an old Sheffield chap in a shop at night.

Shelled by big high velocity gun during the night and put the wind up many of us.

  1. “Stacpoole’s novel”: See footnote on 29 May and Arthur Linfoot’s Library

  2. R G A: Royal Garrison Artillery, the branch in which Ernie Linfoot was serving. 

29 May 1917; Tuesday

Up at 6.45. Not quite so warm. Usual work. Had short walk in the town in the afternoon. On at night. A new officer in with impetigo1. Did a little French and read a bit of Stacpoole’s2  Wilderness†3. Sergeant Powell and Steve Bott called and told of the shelling up the line. They had 60 cases through the dressing station last night. In at night and managed all right. Received another officer in my ward – a captain in the R Amb4. Busy until nearly 11 o’clock.

  1. Impetigo: contagious skin disease, formerly quite common. 

  2. Stacpoole: If correct, could be either: Henry De Vere Stacpoole (1863 – 1951); a very popular and prolific Irish author; best-known for his novel “The Blue Lagoon” (adapted as films many times, most famously in 1980), or; HDVS’ eldest brother, William Henry Stacpoole (1846 – 1914); doctor of divinity, Dean of Kingstown school and also a published author. 

  3. “Wilderness”: The shorthand reading is probably not correct; no work with this or any similar title appears in any list of works by either Stacpoole. See also Arthur Linfoot’s Library

  4. R Amb: presumably Royal Ambulance Service, or Corps – but not traced under these names. 

28 May 1917; Monday

Up at 6.30. Kept busy all day. Stayed on at night. Had walk round the town in the morning. The Germans had put a big gun again and shelled heavily round about. I lay awake a good while listening.

Heard that a lot of artillery and suchlike had been killed the night before and that the dressing station had 70 wounded there. Wrote letter to Mr Eaves about Mr Mullens1. Did a bit French at night and read a bit.

  1. Mr Mullens: A minister from the South Durham Street United Methodist Free Church in Sunderland whose death is recorded on 20 and 24 May

27 May 1917; Sunday

Up at 6.30. Busy as usual. My turn off at night. Went to the Y M service by Amiss†. Enjoyed it very much. Good singing and good hymns. Watched the Germans shell an observation balloon and the observers go down in their two parachutes.

Fritz1 shelled heavily at night and did some damage.

  1. Fritz: a name given to German troops by the British and others in the First and Second World Wars. 

24 May 1917; Thursday

Up at 6.30. Busy in the morning. 4 patients in for me. My turn in at night. Managed very well. Glorious weather. A lot of guns going up1. Received letter from home telling more [sic] that Mr Mullens2 had died on Sunday on his way to preach at Shiney Row3.

  1. “A lot of guns…”: See note on 22 May

  2. Mr Mullens: A minister from the South Durham Street United Methodist Free Church in Sunderland, where ALL had been a member prior to joining the RAMC. ALL had also recorded Mr Mullens’ death in his diary a few days earlier on Sunday, 20th May, apparently the day it happened. It is probable that this earlier diary note was added later, some time after the news reached ALL on the 24th. Mr Mullens was 73 years old at the date of his death. See also all diary entries tagged “Mullens”

  3. Shiney Row: mining village between Penshaw and Houghton-le-Spring, 5 miles SW. of Sunderland. 

23 May 1917; Wednesday

Up at 6.45. Shaved and dressed and commenced duty as usual. Lee helped me as he had no patients. Glorious day. Kept pretty busy. A lot of guns going up the line. My turn out. Walked about a good lot and didn’t do much. Looked up a bit French in the Y M. A German aeroplane over and a few pieces of shell and a dud fell in the town. A continuous stream of guns moving up1.

  1. “A continuous stream of guns…”: See note on 22 May

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.