Up at 9 o’clock. Orders to clean up for the inspection. Wrote letter home. Went out into field with Duggins and put up bivouac in the field. Received parcel from home and had dinner and tea out of it.
Called up at 6 o’clock. Had breakfast shortly before 8 and was relieved then. Wrote letter to Joe and one to Charlie. Went on at 12 o’clock. Was relieved shortly before 2 o’clock. Just beginning dinner when we received orders to go to our billet and pack our kit. Packed kit in 20 minutes and paraded by the A.S.C. park. Had tea and waited. Received orders to go back to the billet and wait there. Beautiful afternoon. Wrote to Ernie. Turned in at the usual time.
Up at 7. No bread and rotten dinner, boiled bully. Got hair cut. Physical drill at 11 o’clock. Wrote to Gertie. Received two copies of the Daily News from home. Rain in the morning but fine in the afternoon. Got new cap two sizes too small. Paraded at 6 o’clock with the guard. Went on from 6 until 10 o’clock. Got two blankets and slept with Lee on a fairly comfortable bed in the hospital barn.
Up at 7 o’clock after a bad restless night. Hunted in shirt and pants and found about 6 big lice. Paraded in the morning for cleaning waggons etcetera and then physical drill. Lay down all afternoon – no parade. Had some peaches for tea. Received some papers from Betty and also a letter from home. Went out at night with Lee and called at a village. Bought some chocolate. Afterwards met Leaky and Duggins and went with them to Ribemont1. Had eggs, coffee and cakes and bread. Walked round village and bought card for Gertie. Saw a few thousand cavalry go by our village and understand they are going to charge in the morning.
Ribemont: presumably Ribemont-sur-Ancre, 7km SW of Albert, not Ribemont, SE of St Quentin. ↩
Up at 7 o’clock. Church parade at 11 o’clock. Very nice service – C of E – and good hymns O God Our Help, Jesu Lover of my Soul etcetera. Read Bible a bit. Read British Weekly and enjoyed article by Claudius Clear1. Went to concert in the open by the Town Major’s house. Our C.O. and a captain took part in good dialogue. I dropped a 2 franc piece and couldn’t find it at a shop. Called again with Walsh and the woman recognised me and told me where she had found it – on the window sill. Washed shirt, pants and socks and wrote a few letters.
Up at 7 o’clock. Physical drill at 11 o’clock. Orders to clean buttons. Turned out at 2.15 to clean waggons. Dirtied tunic and had to clean it at night, and also belt. Beautiful evening. Sat outside billet and cleaned belt. Read account of North Sea battle1 in Daily News received from home this morning. Also read some of British Weekly2. Wrote letter home in reply to one received. Had slight trouble with toothache. Had short walk with Lee. Cleaned grease off tunic and pants.
“North Sea battle”: Jutland was 6 weeks ago, but reports were still coming through. The Germans’ next attempt to capitalise on what they claimed as a victory was a projected raid to shell Sunderland, on 19 August, but this was intercepted and defeated by the RN following Intelligence reports. ↩
Up at 7 o’clock. Spent morning cleaning up. Paraded at 3 o’clock in the afternoon with full pack and had good inspection. The C.O. read letter from General Head Quarters thanking us for our services in the most impossible conditions and also stating that the men appreciated our work. Walked to the next village Y.M. and looked round. Received newspapers from home and read them. Beautiful night. Everything so peaceful away from battlefield. Rather cold.
I lost service cap and sunshade at the trench.
Had sergeant and 6 men in our ambulance down with nerves and shell shock and 2 men slightly wounded. Noticed larks singing above the trenches while the battle was in full swing.
Lay down on stretcher to sleep as Germans were putting Jack Johnsons1 into the wood a few hundred yards away and we were in easy range. They were trying for the batteries behind us. Hurt knee on barbed wire on the night before and it was very painful. Marched down to Albert. Germans commenced to shell the town again. Were all done up, and were taken back to Laviéville by our motors. Got decent billet in a barn. Scraped clothing and cleaned up generally. Had a bathe and shave. First wash for 3 days. Plenty of tea. Bully again. Bread ration served out and I used some fresh butter received from home. Turned in early and slept well. Notes on front. Most horrible sight – men dying on top of dead. Coolness of some soldiers. Two soldiers trembling with fear who were to go over the top last Sunday morning. Our aeroplanes complete mastery of the air. German artillery not to be compared with ours.
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. ↩