Havre Feb 16. 1917.
6am. Name of boat Edward VII. Marched to camp at Harfleur 6 Kilos. After
numerous parades and inspections was detailed to signaller's lines (L
troop 11 camp). Second day had tests on buzzer, flags, disc and lamp.
In charge of tent. Gym for 2 hrs each day on hill. Disgusted with system
of 'bending', practised by gym instructors. Had 1 day gas course on
hill. Weather cold but bright. Route march up Seine. On draft for line
23 Div March 2. Party Haggis, Keen, Saunders, Cooper, Accleton, Shoey
and self. 2 days rations. travelled civi coach. Saw dirigible flying
up Seine estuary. Splendid view from top of hill.
4th March 1917
Arrived after 36 hrs train travelling
from Le Havre. Marched to rest camp(5k). 22 in tent. Food poor. Dock
fatigues. Decent cinema. Large camps of Australians and Indians. Noticed
particularly large quantities of mistletoe on trees as we marched to
Omer 12th March 1917
Arrived after 48 hrs train travelling
from Rouen. Should have de-trained at Watten. Billeted in French barracks.
Had a walk about the town which is fair size and has number of very
decent buildings. Visited cinema and YMCA.
13th March 1917
by train from St Omer(12k). Small village on canal banks. Billeted in
barn. Had good rations, steak, onions, cheese, bread, butter, jam and
tea. Messed in farm kitchen. Fitted with box respirator.
14th March 1917
Marched from Watten (8k).DAC lines.
Billeted in pigsty but owing to rotten stink found better place in strawbarn
next to cows. Visited an estaminet in the evening. Horse line fatigues
and sundry walks about the village. Ordered to join 'C' Battery then
at Polincove on manoeuvres.
Polincove 16th March 1917
and motor transport from Rumingen (15k).C
Battery in orchard and men billeted in barns. Battery on manoeuvres.
Detailed to be OC's signaller for 17th (Capt Warden). Had a full day
mounted on open action work and was a dud at it. Flag drill in the orchard
and station work on fields. Old hen made her nest on my kip in barn
and was a regular layer. Had my first view of 'sausages' also of Hun
aeroplane under fire. Pretty sight.
19 th March 1917
Column of route from Polincove. Wet
through rain and snow all day. Had late dinner - stew. Rum issue later.
Billeted in hayloft. Some of the boys raided an estaminet and beer was
on tap all night. In same sub section found a Charles Scurr from Spennymoor.
Watou 20th March 1917
Column of route from Roebruk. Wet and
weary within sound and earthshake of our 'heavies' . Saw Boche planes
under fire. Pretty sight. Saw our observation balloons again. Worked
on horse lines and general fatigues. Keen, Haggis and I transferred
'B' Battery/103 Bde. 0C Major Powell. Billeted in tents. Watou a fair
22nd detailed to proceed to Wormhout as NCO i/c signallers for a course.
Hennegham, Willes, Read, Cooper, Hasler and myself. Mounted and joined
other battery and HQ parties.
22nd March 1917
Arrived mounted from Watou(8K). Billeted
in tumbledown old barn. Had a real good time whilst on course. Plenty
of good food. Decent town. Eggs and chips suppers. Flag drill in orchard
Bdr T Walker i/c. Station work in the fields etc. Had tests in Chateau
on buzzer, lamp, helio, Semaphore and morse. Saw a Fullerphone for the
first time. Decent weather but wakened one morning to find ourselves
covered in snow. English newspapers can be purchased.
Watou 6th April 1917
Arrived mounted from Wormhout. Had
the usual horseline work in awful morass of slimy mud. Terrific bombardment
on right, tent and ground shook and trembled all night. Detailed to
take officers kit to Poperhinghe but cancelled. Left wagon lines for
advance up line. Wretched weather and dreary march. Passed through Poperhinghe
en route to 0uderdom. Noticed refugees houses as we travelled made of
lath and plaster with straw roofs some houses made of biscuit tins,
ration boxes etc.
Ouderdom Good Friday
Arrived column of route from Watou. Here was our wagon line. Hail
and sleet all day. WL shelled and saw our first casualties 2 killed
5 wounded. Two Belgians shot as spies. At dusk climbed on top of GS
wagon and started for position. Held up several times owing to road
being shelled. Passed through Ypres, the ruined city, in pitch darkness.
The Cloth Hall was a mass of debris but the cathedral tower was still
standing and the enormous shrine on the eastern side was untouched.Passing
through the Lille gate we traversed 'Hellfire corner', 'Shrapnel Corner'
down by 'Transport Farm' and so to 'Bleuport Farm' our position in a
belt of trees. It was at Ouderdom where the Belgians at a farmhouse
used to remove the handle from the pump to prevent us obtaining drinking
water. Of course they sold coffee and ale, as they had no sugar, sweets
were used to sweeten the coffee. Another farm opposite was like a 'dry'
canteen and we could purchase almost anything we required.
7 April 1917 .
on GS wagon via Ypres. Position 'Bleuport Farm' on right of Zillebeke.
The farm consisted of two heaps of rubble, cookhouse under one and the
officers mess under the other. The guns were some distance to the right
on rising ground and gunners and telephonists dugouts between the gun
pits. The two Haslers and I had a disused machinegun emplacement which
was the best little dugout on the position but had one objection - rats
galore including 'Sniffler' who must have been gassed at some time.
is on the left front and Ypres on the left rear and being on an elevated
position we get a good view of both. Maj Powell was wounded at OP Hedge
St trench first day. Lt Polglaze, CO, Cooper and I have to tramp each
day to Lille gate via Bedford House, Hellfire corner and Shrapnel corner
for training on lamp. Most days under shell fire both ways. Becoming a
first class sprinter. Duckboards from cookhouse to dugout under machinegun
fire at night. Razor and I take rum issue to SOS OP on the Menin Road,
Zillebeke one night and had a lively time both ways in pitch darkness.
Fritz found us on 24th April and gave us a rough time 5.9" and 8".
On 26th April we got the whole issue blown to the sky
with only 5 wounded. 12hrs of 4.2", 5.9" and 8". Some doing.
Slept in dug-out in bund and crawled back to position to view damage.
5 guns buried and bust. Cemetery bashed about.
27th April 1917
Tramped to Lille gate (Ypres) then mounted.
So absolutely beat from bumping of previous day that before reaching the
Lille gate fell into a small lake and had a job to get out. At the YMCA
Ypres, which is under a large shop the chap took pity on us and took us
to a dark corner and gave us a tot of whisky each -it was great. Jay was
with my horse behind the cavalry barracks. So tired I could hardly keep
in the saddle. To med matters near Ouderdom met two steam rollers at work
and of course my old animal must gyb and had to jump three ditches to
get past. Had test immediately on arrival and of course being dead beat
- failed. Had lamp and helio practice each morning. Billeted in same old
kennel. Battery came out of action 26th and we made ready to move out
3rd May 1917
Arrived column of route from Ouderdom.
Between Cassell and Wormhout . Had a good journey in decent country.
Civilians all busy with setting seeds. Interested in the peculiar and
antiquated implements used. Billeted on a farm in big barns. On horse
lines and did one 'gun' guard. No tent so had to sleep under the gun.
Fresh. General's inspection of Battery. Colonel's inspection of horses
etc. Grand weather. Owing to having lost my cap in action have to wear
my tin hat all the time. Haslers and I regularly visit the 'Au Nouveau'
estaminet as the ale is not so bad and the oeufs were certainly good.
Madame insists on calling me 'M le Pisspot' because of the tin hat.
Did a bit of bird nesting. Violets plentiful and pretty, sent some home.
Rutledge killed Crab Crawl.]
[Lt Jones killed Passchendaele.]
Ypres 10th May 1917
Arrived column of route from Hardifort.
Position right of Menin Road. WhiteChateau. Arrived as usual in the
dark and by the same route as before. Ypres was more smashed up than
ever. Our dug-out back of mess and against a small lake which teems
with an endless variety of aquatic life. Cuth and I patrol lines (telephone)
up to the front line on the 11th and Fritz chased us with Whizz-bangs
for about 3 hrs. When we landed at the bottom of Zillebeke lake for
a rest and had a heated argument on what the date was as Cuth's birthday
is on 10th. It was my birthday and I won't forget it. Up the trenches
most days on various duties. 'C' battery has a hot time. We are gassed
(3 shells at dug-out door). Slept with Wernham
who was killed
June 7th. Shell entered old dug-out and killed Cpl Howlett [Hackett?].
June 6th was great. Razor and Bulmer wounded several gunners
also. Few gassed. Fritz knocks us right out of position and we take
up new one close to Zillebeke lake. Nothing exciting here. Move position
again to sunken road near Hill 60. Fritz didn't find us until last few
days, when he did we had it hot. Night before we came out of action
shell burst in dug-out killing Goodier
What a mess the poor lads were in. Buried them night we moved out. We
were in action for 7 weeks and it would need a family bible to enter
all the details of this period.
La Clytte 22nd June 1917
Arrived. Marched from Larch Wood position.
We, 10 signallers, tramped it in the night and what a nervous sample
we were. We passed lots of heavy batteries in action and at last entered
Dickebusche village, or what remains of it. Anyway we saw the first
house with a chimney pot intact upon it that we had seen for weeks.
Also found a YMCA which had a rough time but was open day and night.
We spent some francs here. Arrived back at wagon lines about 02-30 and
billeted under wagons. Erskine went to sleep under a wagon and woke
under the sky. We moved out of WL to rest at 10-30
Fletre 23rd June 1917
Arrived column of route from La Clytte.
Billeted on farm. Decent coffee. Spent most of time in cleaning all
the signal gear which was in bad condition. Both Fletre and Castre very
decent towns of fair size and containing a number of shops and estaminets
etc. Had pork chops with eggs. Had a few words with Mlle on the merits
and demerits of her oeufs (eggs). Bought Mary a rosary f6-50 and also
a few cards. General distributed Military Medals to five NCO's and men.
Interesting ceremony. Ginger Kennerley blew salute and signallers were
on special guard. Bivouacs in orchard.
Dickebusche 30th June 1917
Arrived column of route from Fletre. WL, tents and bivouacs back
of ruined farm plums, pears, peaches galore. Fritz continually shelling
balloons with naval gun. Interesting time watching observers descending
by parachute when balloons are hit.
1st July 1917
Arrived. Tramped from Dickebusche WL
to position at Bedford House. Had a bumping first day and had to nip.
Too near crossroad and 9.2" battery to be really comfortable or healthy.
Big dug-out in garden of house and 8" shells used to make it rock
like a boat. Had to nip a few times. Were chased out of position three
times in 24hrs. One 5.9" skimmed end of telephone pit and scattered
the ditch. Another lifted No.3 gun out of her pit and smashed her up.
Another day Reid, Erskine and I were left on position in telephone pit
when a 5.9" hit at the side of the pit and tipped us up. Narrow shave
- we sprinted again. Gassed by mustard gas for first time. Saw
some fine air fights. Several Bosche and some of ours down in various
forms also a few balloons fired.
moves to forward position leaving 5 signallers and the cook to guard position.
Not so bad but had a rough passage one night 8" near telephone pit
gave Taffy and Cuth a chasing. Then followed gas galore and we all packed
in a little open front dug out - what a night. Two pits blown up and one
on fire. Great dump ablaze. Teams dashing by at full stretch. Fine sight.
Railway to rear blown up every day. Working party click - two killed seven
wounded. Convoy on road got shelled one night - small Hell.
Dickebusche 24th July 1917
Arrived by GS wagon from Bedford House
position. Spent my time in cleaning up Signal stores and making a few
alterations to instruments. Maj Richards proves to be a little regimental.
28th July 1917
Arrived having tramped from Dickebusche
WL. Position Knoll Road, rather a hot shop. Dug-outs made of old trench.
Some crush and when it rains like a river. Lines(telephone) difficult
to maintain. Push commenced 03-45 on 31st usual artillery preparation.Was
at OP and had a splendid view of a most remarkable fight. 8 tanks wobbled
over Hedge St. 5 over Crab Crawl and many more on the left. Batteries
galloped up into action in great style. Pack horses by the thousand.
04-30 prisoners started to come in and passed us in a continual stream
until 14-00. Nearly all were wounded. Of course soon after we kicked-off
it began to rain. One tank stuck at Hedge St and two on Observatory
Dickebusche 9th August 1917.
Arrived having tramped from Knoll Road,
Zillebeke and didn't waste much time on the journey as Fritz had just
registered our position.
11th August 1917
mounted column of route from Dickebusche. Reserve battery but was soon
called into action.
pass to Pop which is a rather important centre for troops for the Ypres
sector. Station and vicinity frequently shelled by long range gun and
bombed by night.
August, 23 Div arty, including B/103, transferred to XVIII Corps
as reserve arty until at least 30 August1917]
billeted in one compound on north side of town. Met Bdr Hutchinson on
cycle he is attached to HQ staff. Heard that Logan was wounded the day
we came out of action. Fritz bombed every night and 'C' Battery clicked
again with one killed and 12 wounded. We had 1 killed Jack
Healey- poor old Jack. 16 horses also went west what a night. Billets
of canvas over pine pole frames. West Indians had wind up proper and at
times bolted into our bivouac for cover.
St Jean 18th August 1917 [Believed
to be passing through en route to Racecourse Farm, St Julien because
that is where Lt Collins was reported killed 3 days later.]
Arrived mounted from Poperhinghe position via Brielen which had
one lamp post to indicate it had at some time been a fair sized village.
Fritz had all the roads taped and as a result they were lined with dead
horses and smashed wagons.
were in the most advanced position and used Fritz's concrete machinegun
emplacements as telephone pit and officers quarters. Fritz had named
this strong point 'Villa Anna' [Actually "Hof
Anwelyn", itself a corruption of the original Belgian name "Hoeve
Pauwelyn". The British called it "Racecourse Farm".]
and we soon cleared the position of debris and started to
erect defensive walls of sand bags. On
the 2lst we had our first 5.9" which killed Bdr
Kennerley and blew to fragments Gnr
Beaumont. We found a portion of a leg 100yds away and pieces of
his clothing covered acres of ground. Awful stench from rotten stuff
in and around the position.
On 21st/22nd I was on duty from 22-30 to 02-30 Fritz started
to gas us at 23-00 and continued the caper until 02-00. Frank Heys relieved
me at 02-35. At 03-30 shell hit corner of telephone pit killing
Heys and Lt
Collins, both in pit, and severely wounding the Major, Lt Worth, Bdr
Lovall and Sigmn Reid. Stunt started at 4am. Lt
Jones, Howard and self sorted out the mess. Up to the elbows in blood
and felt a bit 'done up' by breakfast.
26th August 1917
Arrived hospital. High temperature and
horrible dreams of various messes up the line. What a treat to be able
to lie out full length on a bed of wire netting. Diet condensed milk and
water 3 times a day.
August 27th loaded up in Red Cross motor and taken to clearing
station and then to No 12 CCS Proven. Carried about on stretcher as though
I was a serious case. Finally passed on to No 10 ward Medical. Fritz bombed
locality during the night.
Proven 28th August 1917
Arrived No 12 CCS. What a treat: Double
marquee chrome lined and electric light. Stretcher beds on trestles.
Canadian nurse. Sponge down and back to bed once more. Splendid camp
near railway. Food good. Sardines or ham for breakfast. Beef and veg
for dinner followed by rice pudding. Tea; jam, jellies and tinned fruit.
Supper cheese and cocoa. Bread and butter each meal. Up 2nd Sept and
started to make myself useful. Barber for the ward. West Indian's hair
some stuff to cut. Snowball a great case for possy and tales of Jamaica.
Made beds and assisted in pantry.
5th September 1917
Red Cross train from Proven. Motor from
train to hospital (14 General). Raining. Had vapour bath and supper then
bed No 12 ward, which in peace time was the servants quarters over the
garage of Hotel Splendid near the Casino. Two mins from beach. Lovely
view from ward window of sea and coast up to Cap Gris Nez. Camp on cliff.
Boulogne 12th September 1917
Arrived by motor from Wimereux(5k)
No.1 Con camp(2k from Boulogne). Camp of marquees surrounded by gardens.
Met Baxter. Had to return to Wimereux on foot with three others for
cap comforters. What a gag. Took road along cliffs and returned via
53 Cen hospital so that Canada could get his clobber.
13th route march into Boulogne headed by pipers. French villagers
show great admiration for Scotch legs.
14th transferred to Base details over the road. Visited Column
of the Grand Army and saw dear old Blighty from the top also Boulogne
harbour and portion of the French fleet. Splendid view of surrounding
country. Detailed for 24hr stick guard at Coppins leave billets. What
excitement among troops going on leave. Splendid rations. Had a pass
so ran around the town viewing the shops. Few good antique shops.
l6th September 1917
Arrived Horse truck from Boulogne. Met
Abbey who is PB and on a soft job in Sgts mess. Saw Gleeson and Routledge
still on staff jobs. Met Towle in YMCA and Davis and Summerfield of D/103.
Baxter marked 'TB'. Had the usual old stunts in the buzzer room and on
hill flag drill, helio, lamp, large and small flag and disc sending and
reading. No gyms. Church at cinema as usual. Large Blighty drafts come
in. Assisted in sorting them out. Hear that Storer has been killed. Warned
for draft 27th parade 01-30. Usual dreary tramp down to Havre station.
We are a party of two, Cpl Pearson and self. Left at 10-30 in well packed
horse truck. Spent most of following day viewing country from buffers.
Raided several orchards en route. Rouen, Abbeville, Calais
Hazebrouk 28th September 1917
via horse truck from Le Havre. Billeted in convent for night. Station
full of Bosche prisoners. Australians busy collecting souvenirs in exchange
for fags. Fair sized town. Half station missing owing to bomb.
29th September 1917
Arrived per civilian train from Hazebrouk.
Billeted Div rest camp. Fritz busy during night. Met Taffy Lewis returning
from leave. Local estaminets busy. Small village. Very hot and dusty
marching. Tramped to La Clytte to WL.
Clytte 30th September 1917
Arrived, tramped from Abelee (9k) Wagon
Lines Fritz bombs frequently also shells by long range gun. Hit on right
shoulder blade by machinegun bullets whilst laid down in bivouac. Graze
and bruise only.
3 teams and wagon up to position on 2nd Oct. Not a
bad journey but had to nip through Zillebeke.
4th Oct had to go sick with diarrhoea.
Oct 6th i/c team down to ordnance with
gun for repairs.
7th i/c mess cart down to position. Decent trip, road blown up in
several places. Heavy rain. All lads at position suffering from gas
(loss of voice and blistering).
Oct 9th saw Logan returned to 'C' battery. Wange Wilkinson posted
to 'A' battery. Hear we have taken last ridge and 3000 prisoners. Heavy
gunfire all night. One of the best Sgt
Last killed whilst i/c teams. Baldwin killed by shrapnel whilst
on SOS stunt. Brass bands taking troops up the road to the front line
- poor devils. Noticed
21 sausages up today and shoals of planes. Good observation.
Oct 13th i/c wagon up to position.
Quiet until we reached Zillebeke. Decided to dash for it. Road strewn
with men and horses. Road blown up and our lead driver and his pair
of horses dropped in the shell hole. Shells bursting all around, Gave
order to abandon wagon and clear. Saw lads all get away safely then
gave Jack his head and plenty of spur. We both cleared that bit of Hell
in great style and without a scratch. Reported and relieved Haggis who
returned with Jack. Later in afternoon all ordered to return to WL.
As Fritz was still shelling Bolton and I succeeded in getting clear.
Owing to an overdose of rum succeeded in falling into umpteen shell
holes none of which was dry.
bombed 4 killed 3 wounded next line. Attended Benediction along with
Garibaldi. Beautiful service but windows rattled by bursting bombs.
WL moved to near windmill. Moved into action at Zillebeke on 18th. Of
course all the ....[unfinished]
18th 0ctober 1917
on foot from La Clytte. Rudkin House hot shop. Amongst heavies. Billeted
in old support sap. Stinking, lousy, muddy and crowded. Had to make
wide detour to avoid shelling. Kits and rations dumped near station.
Wires difficult to maintain. Trench waders issued.
gave us a continual bumping with 4.2" and 5.9' all day. Wooden
track near No 1 gun blocked up with GS wagon, limbers and teams and
a few drivers.
cut to blazes.
to leave position on 24th. Fritz busy strafing Knoll Road wooden track
filled with transport when he opened out. I had a fine view from Rudkin
House. First salvo caught motor lorries which blazed fiercely. Teams
were bowled over and I could hear horses screaming though nearly a mile
away. Fritz gave the track a proper peppering scattering men and horses.
Great sight but awful. Instructed to be ready to leave position 24th
for rest. Handed over the two guns left (out of 6) to Australians. Fritz
very quiet until we were leaving position. Just cleared Zillebeke by
five minutes when Fritz cut loose. Had a look round the 'Salient' which
I hope will be my last. Bricks and mortar flying and dumps blazing.
Picked up GS wagon at Shrapnel corner.
Clytte 24th October 1917
Arrived from position per GS wagon
and foot. Informed that we are on the move on the 25th out of action.
Moved out at 09-30 on an old crock of a nag. Blind in one eye, off fore
knee kicked to bits and more than weak on near front leg.
Renalhurst 25th October 1917
Arrived column of route at new horse
lines near windmill. Billeted in tents and informed that Fritz bombs
every night and that Aussies had 19 killed and injured here. On 25th
Fritz gave us a welcome at 22-30. 0ne burst in turnip field, four duds
and one burst which flattened lath and plaster estaminet. Two Belgians
wounded. Our tent rocked like a ship at sea.
visited YMCA cinema moved into wooden huts near windmill. One of
Fritz's dud bombs dropped 12 feet away. Church service near hole. Heavy
bombardment all day.
Stand to. All sorts of rumours floating about. Off to Salonika,
Egypt, Italy, Ireland, Russia and Heaven Knows where else. Suppose we
will get somewhere. Brought 5 guns from Dickebusche so it looks like
business. Fritz over but some distance away. Some fight at HQ started
by Haggis -rum issue stopped as a consequence.
marking time for orders. Damned nuisance can't get any mail off.
NCO Gun Park guard 24hrs. Fritz was busy bombing the whole district.
Pop was having whole issues of bombs and shelling from long range gun.
November Fritz pays us another visit after a few nights rest.
4 Gothas down during morning very wet again.
Godwaerswelde 9th November 1917
Arrived column of route from Renalhurst. Wet day otherwise not bad
march. Rode 'remount 80'. Not a bad ride but shied at all steam traffic.
Drawn up in sidings. Soon entrained. Very little trouble with horses.
Centre section 'B' attached to ditto 'A' for journey. Left noon 8 horses
and 2 drivers per truck. Gunners 17 per truck. Passed through Abbeville,
Amiens, St. Denis, Chantilly (saw racecourse), Paris.
10th still moving. Still raining and the 'Gay' city looked miserable.
Mesmin, stopped for half hour at big French hospital had coffee and
tea and Bully and biscuits. English Red Cross nurses issued coffee.
St Julien, D'Avellon et D'Epinac, Senesy le G Macon (stopped for water
etc). Many troop trains of French en route same direction. Romanche,
St Germain, Lyons (this is a splendid town and station), Serzin, Vetesse,
Vienne, Vaugris, Valence, Marseilles, St Marcel, Aubagne, Bandol (beautiful
town on bay in Med), Toulon, La Farades, Monaco, Nice.
Ventimiglia 13th November 1917
Arrived 02-30. Detrained and marched column of route to wagon lines
next to prom. Hedged around by tree ferns. Had a good reception from
Italians had a run round town in evening with De Nigris. Enjoyable time.
14th November 19l7
Marched off 07-00 column of route and followed road along coastline
of Med. Scenery 'tres bien'. Had enormous receptions as we passed through
villages and towns. Pelted and decorated with roses, carnations, chrysanths
and violets. Palm leaves were strew on roads and every house displayed
flags of the Allies. Hundreds of people lined the route and gave us
tomatoes, apple, limes, lemons, oranges and cigarettes, postcards, charms
and Vin Rouge. Scenery beyond description. Rested for evening at Riva
Ligure. Had a dip in the Med. Butterflies plentiful. Flowers abundant.
Air balmy. Sea a wonderful blue. Buildings fine. Patrol boat and torpedo
boat of Italian navy in bay. Number of Austrian prisoners working in
15h November 1917
Column of route again still following coastline. en route gave us
figs, lemons, apples, Vin Blanc, oranges. Streets decorated. Flowers
strewn upon streets. Guard Alpini turned out and gave 'present arms'.
Alpini band played as we marched by. Billeted in big school at Oneglia.
San Remo was the big city we passed through prior to Oneglia, it was
17th November 1917
Arrived Allassio. Billeted in monastery. On picket. Horselines on
shore. Beautiful town. Bill
posted in the city
British people nobly assisted us in the strenuous days when we fought
for our independence. Today the German barbarian would like to destroy
this friendship which has always been sincere and unfailing. But the
gallant British soldiers are now coming to fight beside us to punish
and destroy the hated enemy of our country and of civilization itself.
Our gratitude to the illustrious English certainly which has made the
beauties of Alissio known and appreciated everywhere compels us all
the more to receive with hearty enthusiasm this glorious army which
comes direct from the battlefields of Flanders. Let these greetings
tell them that one single hope throbs on every inch of ITALIAN soil
the hope of Victory.
18th November 1917
Column of route. Passed through a number
of villages and towns by the coast. At Albenga had the usual reception,
pelted with flowers, presented with postcards, cigars, cigarettes, matches,
wines, tomatoes, figs etc. Had a decent swim in the sea. Walked through
town in evening. We have at last discovered that the Italians give with
one hand and rob with the other. Men have lost kits, harness, coats,
blankets and numerous other articles. Packs have been cut open and rifled.
0ats disappear as if by magic. March continued. Usual fete by inhabitants
of villages and towns. Road cut in face of precipice all the way. Exchanged
greetings with the crew of an Italian destroyer 300ft below. Could have
thrown orange on its deck. After long march arrived at Savona which
had turned out en masse. Wagons run to railway sidings ready for loading
up. Entrained and left Savona 23-59hrs tired out. Passed through Pavia,
Codogno, Piadina. Enthusiastic reception by inhabitants. Usual gifts.
Trains packed with refugees.
Mantova 20th November 1917
Arrived 23-00. Detrained and proceeded
to wagon lines. Slept under the stars and had a good night. Covered
with frost when awakened. Much colder climate.
21 st November 1917
Column of route again. Country generally
resembles France. Met bags of Italian troops etc coming down the line.
Don't think much of them by their appearance. Arrived Lugano billeted
over oxen which are extensively used for draught purposes.
22nd November 1917
On the road again by 07-00. Passed through several villages in which
our infantry were resting. Notts & Derby, Y&L, Durhams etc.
Met more Italian troops coming down. Weather very cold. Climbing higher
all the time. Arrived Poino. Billeted in schools. Rations on the march
from France have been poor, mostly bully, jam and biscuits. Bought bread
occasionally which was fairly decent.
23rd November 1917
Column of route. Started 04-00. Sharp
frost. Flat country still but hills in distance. Passed through villages
and towns. Inhabitants now greet us with cold stares of curiosity. Numbers
of refugees making their way back. Wagons loaded with their effects
and drawn by oxen. Saw many teams of oxen ploughing etc. Slow work.
Arrived Sossano. Billeted in open loft on straw. Not so bad. Mail up,
great excitement. Tobacco and cigarettes very scarce. Italian tobacco
rotten stuff generally.
Column of route. Started 02-00. Sharp
frost. Very long journey. Uninteresting country generally. Great numbers
of Italian soldiers camped about also transport on roads. One feature
of our long trek is the orders about clean boots, headchains and vehicles.
Brigade order which took the biscuit "Halt. Dismount.Clean your
boots" What a gaff. Arrived at IL Sindago. ["Il
Sindaco" is Italian for "The Mayor"; perhaps a mayoral
sign was mistaken for a place name because, according to the official
War Diary, the village was named Camisano.]
No billets so after a run around town sampling Vino, Marsala
etc bedded down at side of limber in dense fog and had a good nights
sleep. Loose horse pulled my overcoat off during the night but soon
recovered it again. Expected to have a days rest on 25th as it was needed
by both horses and men.
25th November 1917
10-00 hrs Orders to pack up immediately and get on the move again.
Short journey and arrived at Tenere La Destra. [Brigade
War Diary says Gazzo - My thanks to Francesco Brazzale who explains
that Tenere La Destra is a road sign meaning Keep Right]
Billeted in loft over what looks like municipal buildings. Geese on
green. Reminds me of Ayton. Holiday from 13-30 to 16-15. Football match.
People excited spectators. Can hear gunfire at times but must be some
26th November 1917
Same place. Days rest. Rugby match after dinner.
27th November 1917
Still resting. Football match on green in village in afternoon.
Blanco Vino a great drink here 1lira 50 per litre. Bread forbidden to
be sold to troops. Noticed beautiful beaten copper vessels in use by
natives. Italian planes above. Sound exactly like Bosche planes. Haggis
returned to duty. Hasler officers (Sparrow's) servant.
28th November 1917
Up at 04:00. Column of route 07-00.
Long dreary journey crossed two pontoon bridges (Italian) passed through
several villages and towns including Castro Franco [Castelfranco]
with ruined city walls. Arrived WL 03-00. Billeted in loft. [Brigade
War Diary says Salvarosa]
Had basin of milk, plantanti (made
from maize). Near line. Bombs dropped. Cigarette issue, first for three
weeks. What a treat after Italian tobacco.
30th November 1917
Lib's birthday. Same place. Arrange
battery staff. Transferred to 'F' sub Sgt Smith. New horse '159', big
black. Kit inspection. Italians had a beano in cow shed underneath,
drinking rouge vino until 02-00. What an awful gabbling. All were drunk
- from 3yrs of age up. No coal in this country. Olive trees used for
fuel. Nearly all houses and farms have paintings of saints etc on outside
1st December 1917
Had our first bread issue since leaving Renelhurst.
2nd December 1917
On road again passed through several
villages and towns and by large Italian infantry camps. Arrived at WL
in a vineyard behind a farm at the foot of the hills near line. Bivouacs
in vineyard bedded down on vine leaves and maize stalks.
3rd December 1917
4th December 1917
Came into action at last at a place near Bosco, River Piave. What
a change to the old place. We are on a high ridge with a 2Km river between
us and Fritz who is on the mountains opposite. We can see his campfires
on the mountains, his lamps signalling from peak to peak and searchlights
on the river to prevent a surprise attack. Civilians are living between
the battery and the front line which runs through Ciano. To walk to
the OP is similar to a trip from Deganwy to Gt Orme's Head. We overlook
a great number of towns and villages including S.Giovani, Vidor, Barche,
Crocetta, Bosco,Ciano, and many more down the river towards Venezia(Venice).
Had whizzbangs over during the day. Registered during afternoon.
6th December 1917
Fritz got wind up and from 09-00 to 17-00 peppered us with whizzbangs
which were far too close for comfort. Spiteful old devil.
Started to move to new position on
right of old one. More cover and better situation.
8th December 1917
Registered two guns and moved to new quarters. Signal pit is now
in an outhouse on a hill top. Can have a good fire and cook meals when
we have anything to cook - food is not so good again. Fritz sent over
a few 'lightweights' and of'course 'C' battery clicked again. Had steak
and chips for supper. Rum up.
9th December 1917
All guns registered. Spent all day
digging in. Pay up. Drew first Italian pay. 50 lires.
10th December 1917
Quiet day. Most of day spent in digging out pit.
11th December 1917
Fritz has had a full day with artillery
bumping front line all day. 'C' battery clicked again. Had a whizzbang
through mess which killed their pay corporal.
12th December 1917
Rained all day. Rotten day for digging.
21st December 1917
Have had a variety of weather, one day snow two days rain. Have
had sectional days and visual signalling. Have had a lot of humbug from
officers and colonel. Tunnelling in rear of dug-out now 8ft in. Still
sweating on mail and fags. Making Rolypoly pud for signallers mess "Tres
Saw Lt Campbell and squashed Director
Mans job. Also the section stunts. Rutherford up before Major re. transmitting
wrong order on shoot when Prince of Wales was at OP on 21st. Punishment
- made linesman for three months. Barber and Goodman went down to Montebelluno
shopping for Christmas brought back tinned sausages @ 2.50 Lires each.
5 Lires Chestnuts, ditto figs (which are very dear), ditto almond nuts,
ditto apples and 30 Lires cigarettes. So looks like having a bit of
Xmas even if`we have had no mail up for weeks. Snow from yesterday still
on ground. Towns on Piave looked peculiar in dull weather. Number of
towns had fires in them through shelling.
Mail up. Busy day preparing for Xmas.
Snow deep. Grand day. Breakfast:- Quaker oats, sausage (tinned), Bacon,
SM tea. Dinner:- Roast pork, potatoes, cabbage, plum pudding (tinned),
Rum sauce, quart Italian beer. Tea:- Rolypoly duff, jam, margarine,
3pkts Italian fags and 2pkts Gold Flake per man. Had a good day. Spent
intervals yarning and sleeping. Taffy and Clements at OP. More mail
Seven Gothas over early in day. One shot down near wagon lines (3 Austrians
burned). Several planes down during day. Still heavy snow.
Snow stopped all work
28th December 1917
Mail up. Snow still heavy. Glorious
29th December 1917
1st January 1918
Beautiful day of sunshine, sharp frost
and deep snow. Erskine and I completed the metallic circuits on both
OP lines. Saw Fritz plane come down after scrap in clouds struck mountainside
and rolled down. Spent from 17-30 to 23-00 on top of mountain on look-out
and to signal A' & 'B' batteries when rocket went up to let us know
that the boys had crossed the Piave and required the assistance of our
artillery. Cold job too. Fritz didn't show much fight and we were not
called upon. Have heard since we captured 3 prisoners one was stupid
so was drowned.
4th January 1918
All quiet as usual. Have had a fair amount of snow and frosts. Saw
Brig. Gen King about the hills one day. 6" batteries bringing up
ammo on sledges. Clem, Slim, Hunt and Rutherford on sigs course. Goodman
goes on 15th inst on 2 months course. French still blasting on our left.
12th January 1918
Baths at Montebelluno. Decent town
and plenty of civilians about. Canteen opened thank God. Tested lateral
battery lines. Orders forbidding destruction of houses for firewood
14th January 1918
Grand visibility. See French batteries
on top of mountains pelting away all day. Set up kitchen which was on
its own. RGA fellows after struggling with horses on icy roads for hours
chanting "Its a long,long trail awinding" at midnight. Sounded
well in the valley.
17th January 1918
Have just heard reason for chanting: RGA's knocked-out four Austrian
batteries so have avenged their five comrades now in the soldier's cemetery
at Montebelluno. Have had 09-00 to 13-00 visual on top of Montello hills.
Rather a cool job with lamp. Foggy at first.
19th January 1918
Spent some time with telescope watching
Fritz on the mountains above Vidor
20th January 1918
Captured a spy at signal pit. What a pity the cinema man wasn't
on the scene. Lts Mackenzie, Sparrow, Sgt Williams and myself were enjoying
a few selections on the mess gramophone when a message came through
"Suspected spy seen on this front today wearing uniform of officer
DSO, MC and carrying Boche rifle" Ten minutes later the identical
party came to the signal pit and enquired for the road to Bosco. Mac
and Sparrow promised to show him the way and Mac picked up his revolver
as he went out. The next second Sparrow snatched the rifle and Mac pinned
the spy's arms. He was marched off to HQ where he was released on showing
his passport. Mac was wild.
22nd January 1918
Fritz objects to us signalling from
the hill top so gives us three rounds.
23rd January 1918
Down to WL for 8hrs for innoculation. Had a stroll round Montebelluno.
Felt sick at night.
24th January 1918
Arm a little stiff but not bad. Still
a bit sick. Had a cycle run to Montebelluno with Cpl Howard for canteen
stores. Beautiful day.Town busy, many civilians have returned.
1st. February 1918
Balloon down yesterday. Fritz clear
4th February 1918
Now we have a volcano on the front mountains over the Piave. The
one on our left has died down to a wisp of smoke.
9th February 1918
Weather not so warm. Hear we are going out to rest soon. The eagle
which has been over two or three times lately has not been seen for
the past two days. Fritz has had a rather rough time but takes it in
good part. Sgt Yates has come to take charge of signals.
10th February 1918
Had day at OP and an instructional
shoot of eight rounds on my own 3 targets out of the eight shots. House
on Piave bank. Range 5375 16°30' L of zero AS 2°10' dep LX RGN
Had a good close view of two eagles
over position. They were fine birds. Hunt proceeded on leave taking
with him some souvenirs.
13th February 1918
Still foggy but no rain. Left section have gone to Biadene WL and
relieving section have come in. We are going out to rest for, it is
said, one month 5 kilos beyond Montebelluno 41st Div are relieving.
Lt Campbell has gone on gunnery course, Lt Graham transferred to trench
mortars. Lt Davis is attached to 'A' Battery
14th February 1918
Centre section are going out to rest
camp tonight. Left front line for WL Biadene
15th February 1918
Left WL for Busta small village 4 Km
18th February 1918
Proceeded to Caselle for signalling
course.12 men per battery. Took rations up to 20th. Had some difficulty
with cooks about rations. Billeted over estaminet. Decent drill ground.
Bread, fruit, eggs and chocolate not to mention wines galore. Lessons
of the usual style.
over l8th and 19th.
23rd February 1918
Much warmer today. At night saw enormous
fires up on mountains towards Mt Grappa. Interpreter says French are
burning the woods etc. Distinctly felt a hot breeze blowing from the
direction of the fires which are 15 km away
24th February 1918
Glorious day. Church parade 09-00 marched to 'C' battery WL for
service. Rather nice position. Foothills crowned with trees and surmounted
with the usual church. Behind the foothills, mountains occupied by French
who had a terrific bombardment yesterday. Heard that the French captured
many prisoners. Fires still burning and immense column of smoke rising
vertically in almost still air. Bees are swarming just below my window.
Hear that we're are going back to our old position on Montello hills
opposite Vidor next week. 41st Div is reported to be returning to France
- poor beggars.
25th February 1918
School closed 12-00 returned to WL
per GS . Loaded up signal cart ready for moving off tomorrow. Saw a
balloon of ours come down in flames about 16-00 direction of Montebelluno
Hear we are going into same position we came out of. Hope so anyway.
Right section go in first Jock Elder only one to go on leave this weekend.
Hamilton who has just returned says what a case it is to get good food
26th February 1918
En route for Biadene WL passed thro
Bisio and Montebelluna
27th February 1918
In action again, same place. Came up with RX. Fritz met us with
6" - 12" shells on Strada 18. Thought we had clicked first
one. Many 12" holes round our district. After 'heavies' who had
one in their second position. CX and RX came up. Detached gun, 'C' sub
take up forward position bottom Strada l6. Lateral lines to 'A' &
'C' batteries "DG". Ours good position.
2nd March 1918
Sgt Yates returns to 'D' battery. In
charge once more. Fritz chases me up Strada 16 and nearly bags a general
and staff. 'DG' wire cutting satisfactory shoots. Still on harrassing
fire stunts. 6" push 800 into Rivalti which is a mass of flames
canopied by smoke. Harrassing fire each night up to 03-00.
FOR BATTERY SIGNALLERS
CALL 5 March 1918
Sergt Yeats at HQs Montello hills
to qualify for wearing crossed flags. Fritz served out a few whizzbangs
over on the right during tests. His artillery activity has increased
a little. Strafes the road during the night.
Fritz planes over a few times usually
squadrons of seven at a time. Good visibility Many butterflies and bees
out today. Good hot day so washed my underclothing. Packed up some signal
stores ready for leaving. Rumour says we are for Mt Grappa. 0ur planes
active during night of 10/11th
12th March 1918
Left gun lines late in evening relieved
by Italians. Interested in their detachments in action. No discipline
13th March 1918
Wagon lines packing up ready for march
14th March 1918
Reveille 05-00. Marched Div order 07-00
via Montebelluno, Castelfranco to WL slept in GS wagon for night
15th March 1918
Reveille 04-00. Moved off 07-00 passed
through number of villages. Strong defences being made all the way.
MG pits at intervals along the road. Bridges ready for blowing up. Trenches
and wire all over the place. Arr WL 15-00 after 'water and feed' dinner
up. Parade again at 16-00. Tea up 17-30. Very cold wind all day from
mountains. Slept in barn with 'C'sub. Robbie had a dead young rabbit.
Some games. Italians in village had mandolin and songs in vino shop.
In kip by 21-00.
16th March 1918
Reveille 07-00. Beautiful day. Cleaning
appointments; stables, signal gear etc. Cpl Currie goes on leave. Castelfranco
and Citadella are beautiful old cities surrounded by high brick walls
and towers. Beautiful old streets within the walls. River runs round
outside like a moat. Visited Vicenza, had pass for afternoon. Grand
old city in true Italian style, narrow streets, colonades, piazzas.
Disgusted with sanitary arrangement s even worse than villages. Brothels
20th March 1918
Visited small village near WL.
22nd March 1918
Warned to proceed up line. Left WL 21-30 for gun position. One gun
on motor lorry and another gun trailing. 3 cars loaded with baggage
stores and detachments etc. Climbed Mt Grappa to Asiago plateau, which
must be the top of the earth. Entered zone of snow and pine forests.
Beautiful scenery by moonlight. Roads good but all have hairpin bends
one after the other. Italians and French in wooden huts. Arrive in position
at 05-00. Deep snow drift 3' to 5' deep. Issued with alpenstocks and
spikes for boots. Guns had to be manhandled up tremendous hill through
snow and pine forest. Position beautiful beyond words. All billets built
of wood and trees. Log huts true Canadian backwood style. Splendid strong
gun pits. Italians helped us pull up guns. Took nearly 100 men to get
guns up and it was hard graft. Italians and ourselves have glorious
mix-up on lines of communication.
23rd March 1918
Begin to sort out a bit.
24th March 1918
Worse muddle than before. No rations and box-up with lines. Beautiful
bit of country Rocks, Caves moss and fern covered. Glorious pines and
a variety of interesting animal life. Battery OP on top of pine tree
200ft high. Crows nest style. Rotten rations and no signs of mail coming
or going. Fritz has seven planes over and shells lightly.
25th March 1918
Rations still rotten. Fritz scatters
a block of traffic on road. Few killed and injured Mix up gradually
being sorted out. We have taken over today.
3rd April 1918
Fritz does a bit of bumping with whizzbangs. B/102 clicks and has
3 sigs knocked out. One died at dressing station.
4th April 1918
Bit warmer. Therm 35. Birds singing
in forest like a spring day. Fritz drops a few more on B/103 without
20th April 1918
Up on Mt Pau. Reco.
22nd Anril 1918
Granezza. Down towards plains then to summit of Mt Porco. Heavy
23rd April 1918
Hear we are going out for rest to plains
somewhere near Vicenza
25th April 1918
After long tour of front line left position per motor transport
Thiene arriving there 1700. Had a feed at YMCA then walked down to Fara
near Breganza to WL
26th April 1918
Left WL column of route walking. Arrived
at bivouac planted in mud. What a change from Arctic regions to plains
where it is springtime. Raining but warm. Thiene on our right. It is
a very decent town with a fair amount of good shops. Arrived at rest
billet which is a silk factory in Montecchio Maggiore. Good villages
about here and plenty of methods of spending liras. Course at Bde HQ
1st May 1918
Instructor of DAC at Bde school.1st
parade 07-00 to 12-30 then 14-00 to 16-30
8th May 1918
Leave to Rome. Left MM 07-00.Tram from
billet to Vicenza. Walked through town. Grand morning.09-00 got a lift
on Red Cross car to Padua. Had refreshments in station square. Train
left Padua which is splendid old town for Bologna 12-30. Squeezed in
with Italian troops. Passed through Montelici. Beautiful village at
foot of hills surmounted with castle and poplar trees. Revago a rather
large old town in the plain. Passed Paviola arrived Bologna 16-00. Had
a walk up the main street of this fine city. Beautiful buildings and
splendid shops. Evidently we were strange to the people who made our
tour somewhat embarrassing by their curious stares. Had a decent meal
Risoeverdura,Arrosto rabbit and peas with lemon bread and vino blanco
and fruit. Cost us 4.20l each. On return to street MP was after us as
we should have reported to RT0 before going into town. After a lecture
he let us on our way again. Left Bologna, 19-30.
17th May 1918
Left Rome 14-00
18th May 1918
Arrived Montecchio Maggiore 17-30.
19th May 1918
Left column of route for Thiene
20th May 1918
21st May 1918
15th/16th June 1918
Fritz opened up a terrific bombardment
we had a hell of a time for 6 hours
was a major enemy attack which was repulsed and resulted in immediate
awards. Below is a transcript of part of the 103 Bde June War diary
listing the awards for service in that battle.]
Archives reference WO 95/4233
Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government
JUNE 1918...................... APPENDIX 3...................................
103rd Brigade, RFA
AWARDS FOR SERVICE ON 15TH JUNE.
T. M. WALKER. D/103.
A. INNES. B/103.
P. L. Z. LEA. B/103.
F. W. BUCKLE. D/103.
Cpl. Ftr. J. T.
W. G. HALES. A/103.
BAR TO MILITARY
Sergt. E. V. DAVISON. D/103.
Bombr. C. B. SPIRES. B/103.
C. FORREST. C/103.
G. HUTCHINSON. C/103.
I. HARROP. D/103.
W. LAVENDER. D/103.
F. H. JENKINS. D/103.
F. TREADWELL. B/103.
H. W. HERBERT. A/103.
A. TYSON. A/103.
A. HOLMES. A/103
J. E. ROBERTS. A/103.
R. McCLURE. A/103
J Curling Lt Col
June 1918 Decorated by Gen Babington
with Military Medal.
Press cutting from The Derby Evening Telegraph
- June 1918
ROLL OF HONOUR
BOMBARDIER WINS MILITARY MEDAL
Charles Bertram Spires of the R.F.A. has been awarded the Military
Medal for gallantry in the field in Italy. The report states
that "On the 15th of June 1918, this NCO was in charge
of the Battery signallers. During an intense bombardment the
telephone dugout had a direct hit and all wires were destroyed.
He immediately ran out a new line to group headquarters under
extremely heavy fire, and it was entirely due to his gallantry
that communications with group headquarters was re-established."
His home address is 28 Silverhill Road. He joined the Army on
September 7th 1916, was drafted to France in February 1917 and
then to Italy in November last year. Prior to enlistment he
was assistant superintendent of the Britannic Assurance Co.
continued to take its turn in action on the Asiago plateau until 24
September 1918. In the absence of any more diary entries from
Bert, the Bde War Diary for August 1918 is here.
(Contains public sector information licensed under
the Open Government Licence v2.0. National Archives reference WO 95/4233)
went on leave to UK from 1 to 25 September 1918.
24 September, 23rd Div withdrew onto the plain in preparation for
a return to France but plans changed and instead, along with 7th Div,
took part in the battle of Vittorio Veneto . This battle opened with
the crossing of the Piave, which took place on 27 October 1918,
and was the final action of B/103 in the war.
the Armistice Bert was selected for retention and transferred to B
Battery, 102 Brigade RFA on 17 February 1919. B/102 moved to
Egypt, sailing from Taranto on the troop ship Tarsus on 30 April 1919.
He spent some months in Alexandria, in Sidi Bishr Camp and
the Chatby area (Metras Camp and Fort Youssari?) until he was appointed
A/CQMS and transferred to Bilbeis PoW camp on 29 September 1919.
At some time he moved to Kantara PoW camp and it was from there that
he began his journey home on 16 December 1919.]
his papers is a ship boarding pass for HMT Czaritza which left Alexandria
at 6pm on 17 December, stopping at Malta and Gibraltar, arriving Liverpool
at 9-30 am on 29 December 1919. His Army Form Z 11 certificate shows
that his dispersal process was at Ripon and that he went on final
leave with effect 31 December 1919.]
next news we have of him is a telegram, sent on 30 December 1919 from
Leeds railway station, announcing the final leg of his journey home.]
28 January 1920 Bert became a civilian again and resumed his life
with his wife and 2 young children. He returned to his job with Britannic
Assurance and evidently made a success of it. He was able to afford
to move his family out of the terraced house at 28 Silverhill Road
in Derby to a detached house; one of two, which he had built, at 49
& 51 Robincroft Road in Allestree.]
Bert and "Lib"
just before WW2
[Bert died in 1940 at the age of 56 and his wife, Elizabeth Ann (Lib),
died 4 years later. They are buried together in St Edmund's Church
cemetery in Allestree near Derby.]