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Le Havre Feb 16. 1917.
Disembarked 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.

Rouen 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 camp.

 

 

St 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.



Watten 13th March 1917
Arrived 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.

Rumingen 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
Marching 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.

Roebruk 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 sized town.

On 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.

Wormhout 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.

Zillebeke 7 April 1917 .
Arrived 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.

Zillebeke 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.  
Ouderdom 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 to rest.

Hardifort 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.

[Lt 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 and Barnsley. 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.

Ypres 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.

Battery 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.

Zillebeke 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 Ridge.

 


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.

Poperhinghe 11th August 1917
Arrived mounted column of route from Dickebusche. Reserve battery but was soon called into action.
 

Had 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.

[15 August, 23 Div arty, including B/103, transferred to XVIII Corps as reserve arty until at least 30 August1917]

 
Bde 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.


We 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.
Poperinghe 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.

Wimereux 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.

Sept 13th route march into Boulogne headed by pipers. French villagers show great admiration for Scotch legs.

Sept 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.

 
Harfleur 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
Arrived 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.

Abelee 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.

La 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.

Took 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.

Oct 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.

15th October 1917
WL 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]

Zillebeke 18th 0ctober 1917
Arrived 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.

On 20th Fritz 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.

22nd Lines cut to blazes.

On 23rd orders 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.

La 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.

27th 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.

28th 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.

29th marking time for orders. Damned nuisance can't get any mail off.

30th 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.

8th 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.

November 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 the locality

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 IT.

17th November 1917
Arrived Allassio. Billeted in monastery. On picket. Horselines on shore. Beautiful town.
Bill posted in the city

" HURRAH FOR ENGLAND

The 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.

VE"



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.

24th November 1917
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 distance away.

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]

29th November 1917
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 walls.

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
Montebelluna

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.

7th December 1917
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 Bien" "Bueno".

23rd December 1917
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.

24th December 1917
Mail up. Busy day preparing for Xmas.

25th December 1917
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 up.

26th December 1917
Seven Gothas over early in day. One shot down near wagon lines (3 Austrians burned). Several planes down during day. Still heavy snow.

27th December 1917
Snow stopped all work

 


28th December 1917
Mail up. Snow still heavy. Glorious frosty nights.

29th December 1917
Slight thaw.

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 away.

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 Cordite P.

11thFebruary 1918
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 from Montebelluna.

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.

Fritz 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 in Blighty.

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.

ORDERS FOR BATTERY SIGNALLERS

ROLL CALL 5 March 1918

9th 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.

10th March 1918
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 whatever.

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 abound.

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 result.

20th April 1918
Up on Mt Pau. Reco.

22nd Anril 1918
Granezza. Down towards plains then to summit of Mt Porco. Heavy snow.


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 command.

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.

9th May 1918
Arrived Rome 09-00

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
Fara

21st May 1918
M Bruscon

15th/16th June 1918
Fritz opened up a terrific bombardment we had a hell of a time for 6 hours

[This 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.]

National Archives reference WO 95/4233
Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v2.0.

WAR DIARY JUNE 1918...................... APPENDIX 3................................... 103rd Brigade, RFA

IMMEDIATE AWARDS FOR SERVICE ON 15TH JUNE.

DISTINGUISHED SERVICE ORDER
Major T. M. WALKER. D/103.

MILITARY CROSS.
a/Major A. INNES. B/103.
Lieut. P. L. Z. LEA. B/103.

DISTINUISHED CONDUCT MEDAL
Bombr. F. W. BUCKLE. D/103.
Cpl. Ftr. J. T. BELL. A/103.
Bombr. W. G. HALES. A/103.

BAR TO MILITARY MEDAL
Sergt. E. V. DAVISON. D/103.

MILITARY MEDAL
Bombr. C. B. SPIRES. B/103.
Driver C. FORREST. C/103.
Gunner G. HUTCHINSON. C/103.
Gunner I. HARROP. D/103.
Gunner W. LAVENDER. D/103.
Corpl. F. H. JENKINS. D/103.
Gunner F. TREADWELL. B/103.
Gunner H. W. HERBERT. A/103.
Gunner A. TYSON. A/103.
Gunner A. HOLMES. A/103
Bombr. J. E. ROBERTS. A/103.
Gunner R. McCLURE. A/103

Signed J Curling Lt Col

26th June 1918 Decorated by Gen Babington with Military Medal.

Press cutting from The Derby Evening Telegraph - June 1918

THE ROLL OF HONOUR

DERBY BOMBARDIER WINS MILITARY MEDAL

Bombr 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.

[B/103 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)

Bert went on leave to UK from 1 to 25 September 1918. On 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.

After 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.]

[Amongst 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.]

[The 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.]

[On 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.]



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