The War Diaries of Roger Stamp: April 1917

The War Diaries of Roger Stamp: April 1917

Rogers diary continues on from March 1917

Sunday 1 April 1917 – Slept till breakfast time and received ½ loaf bread with bacon and tea. We are in huts tightly packed each man having about 20 inches width for everything, and some chaps (two) slept in the centre.

Monday 2 April 1917 – Off again today, I had a cycle but the cyclists would not ride ahead but had orders to keep behind the transport. It was a lovely day, the roads fine and the wind would have blown us along. It was vexing to walk. Arrived at BEAUVEL about 1.15pm having set off about 8am, not a long journey, the office men of the signalling are billeted at the mairie or mayoral offices what I reckoned to be the local town hall. Not a bad place, not what I would call a town at home but quite a decent sized place to the villages we have been used to seeing. I was detailed off to work between G-office and the signal office going on duty at 2pm till 8pm, had a nice time, only 3 messages, at teatime the company had a parade the corps Commander having complained that the signal coy was the blot on the whole division and the OC signals told us off and tells us he is going to straighten the company up.

Tuesday 3 April 1917 – Reveille 4.15am and we were ready to move off again at 7.15am I not having a cycle to take today, my blankets like the others are on the limber but had to carry my valise and equipment, Yesterday we had some snow and during the night had a slight covering of snow, this morning had to stand about from 7.30am till 9.30am before we got on the march. Arrived in DOULLENS, (the place where we disembarked or disentrained when the battalion came down to the Somme) about 12 noon, part of the company got across the railway crossing, the others being stopped to allow a truck train to pass and when just partly across the railway a link broke between two trucks and the road was held up for about an hour giving us a welcome rest. Continued our journey to BOUQUEMAISON where we have a night rest, There are 15 of us in a barn here at my billet. Had breakfast at 5.30am and tea at 5pm, no dinner, one meat and veg ration between 4 issued at teatime, I had none, I had a coffee before we set off, a gill basin 2 ½ d and tonight have been out and had 2 eggs, bread and butter and 2 coffees 13d eggs 3d each. At first I would not get bread so I said the eggs need not matter, so I got a slice of bread which was dry so I asked for butter, I got sufficient to have done 2 slices, the coffees both together would not make a gill, 3d each for eggs, the slice of bread was 2d, the butter the same and coffee 1 ½ d each.

Wednesday 4 April 1917 – Reveille 4.15 am, fell in 7.45am, marched off about 9 am to RAMECOURT via FREVENT a good road all the way in the direction of ST POL, we branched off a few kilometres from ST POL for a short cut, we marched right through FRIVENT, a small town. RAMECOURT is on the outside of ST POL practically touching the outskirts. I managed to find a boulangerie and got a loaf for 7d and tonight being off duty, went into the town and got a couple of collars for Annie’s birthday, also had a feed at a café 2 eggs, bread& butter, coffee and 3 x ½ apricots, 14d. There is a YMCA but the refreshment canteen was closed when I was in the town. The march today was about 21 kilometres.

Thursday 5 April 1917 – Went to the same shop as I got the collars for Annie at and got a further necklet for Mother. The shopkeeper will send them off for me and register the parcel, I have the shop address to write to in case the parcel doesn’t reach home, the Madame can speak and write English.

Good Friday (6 April 1917) – We were to have moved today but the order was cancelled. yesterday there was a full pack parade at 9.30 and after inspections the horse line men had to go to stables and office men, not on duty, to clean wagons also on the afternoon another parade today and wagon cleaning but I was on duty 7.30am till 1.30pm, this afternoon was a half day off for men not on duty. Tonight I went into the town and called to the shop where I made my purchases and was shown the post office receipt for the registration. The Madame had had to take the contents out of the box which I saw packed as it was too large so Mother will find strange writing on the smaller box in which my presents are packed. Tonight in the YMCA quiet room I attended a service given by an army chaplain entitled ‘the meaning of the cross.’ About 20 men were present filling the little room. On duty all night.

Saturday 7 April 1917 – Down to sleep from 12.15am to 4am, reveille for the billet 4.15am, we moved again today. Had a cycle today and being on night duty stayed with the rear party till the office closed at 9am. Then cycled to ROELLECOURT only about 6 kilometres , I stopped at ST POL and bought some muscatels and got a fair deal getting about 3lb for 14d, I thought the shopkeeper had made a mistake but no, she had not, and gave me the change. On duty from 1.30pm till 9pm, have a good clean billet with tears of wire beds. A lovely day ideal for the Easter holiday at home.

Sunday 8 April 1917 – Move again today. When moving the blankets go on the transport, overcoat and kit to be carried or fastened to cycles if wheeling. Today I had not a cycle, marched to LE CAUROY about 15 kilometres practically retracing our march , not being more than a few kilometres from FRIVENT, a place we passed going to RAMICOURT. A lovely day, though too hot for marching. Today I sweat and was more fatigued than any of the marching while on this move. On duty 6pm till 8pm, another good billet, tears of wire netting beds.

Monday 9 April 1917 – Awakened to find it raining and during the day early on rain and fair alternately, this morning read an account of our first encounter nearly 2 years ago, under the heading’ The British Campaign in France by Conan Doyle.’ I could not help recalling past years and wonder if the Guild at North Terrace is having a ramble. LE CAUROY is near ESTREE WAMIN.

Tuesday 10 April 1917 – Awakened at 6am, told to pack up and be ready for breakfast 6.30am and prepared to move at 7.30am, a faint cover of snow over the farm buildings. Had to parade and get 3 days iron rations-bag of biscuits, 3 bully beef and 3 tea and sugar, no bread issue for today but biscuits. Had biscuits and ½ tin of beans and tea for dinner, finally moved at 3pm going to BERNEVILLE 9 kilometres from ARRAS. During the march we had 3 falls of snow, two being sharp and heavy. On duty all the night with 2 others from 8pm to 9am.

Wednesday 11 April 1917 – Yesterday we were only allowed to keep one blanket. I pushed a cycle from LE CAUROY, on Monday night I went to LIENCOURT looking for a boulangerie, instead I found my battalion and company. My application for my return to the battalion was dated March but I have since written another out dated April, just the date to be written in and hope to hand it in the first time I meet the battalion. Orders to move again today, falling in at 4pm, I was down to sleep last night from 12.15am – 7.30am. After this men had fallen in to move off, the order was cancelled and no move was made.

Thursday 12 April 1917 – Moved today to ARRAS, I going with the first party in the motor lorry, only about 4miles from BERNEVILLE via DAINVILLE, part of the men have gone to advance HQ’s in some large dugouts outside the station called The Caves. These caves hold a great number of men; the 5th Durhams is one of the other battalions stationed in them. Our billet is the cellar of a house BOULIVARD DI CARNOT (no 12). I am sleeping on an 18inch shelf

Friday 13 April 1917 – Men went to advance HQ’s today making more room; I have secured a better place, more room and a flock mattress.

Saturday 14 April 1917 – Last night had a look round the town and in the cathedral which has been ruined by the enemy shells, I looked for a piece of stained glass for dad, souvenir, and in doing so made my way to the back to the alter behind the chief altar and found an opening in the wall. I went in and found a winding stone stair. I explored and came to the top of what was left, where the remnants had been shelled away, here was an opening leading inwards. I looked in and it overlooked the back altar, the opening I think having been the entrance to the top of the dome. Since Monday have been on iron rations, we get normal rations tomorrow excepting bread. I managed to get some biscuits and a tin of golden syrup at the canteen here. The place is packed with soldiers, I wonder the enemy don’t shell us, the centre of the town has been shelled down, but in other parts no damage has been done, while in other parts more or less damage has been done.

Sunday 15 April 1917 – Attended and had Holy Communion but as the Lords supper, before taking it I prepared and told God it was not as one who had been confirmed but only in remembrance as the Lords supper. Had a champion service at a soldiers club here, C of E, on duty all tonight.

Monday 16 April 1917 – I got down to bed about 1.30am, up at 7am, a lovely day yesterday but rain today.

Tuesday 17 April 1917 – On Saturday I put into the battalion for my return and today learn an application has reached the signal coy’s orderly room, but nothing else, so don’t know yet if I will be allowed to go back. Yesterday I set a chap off to the base, he had to go about 10 miles, I loaded up a cycle with his rifle and kit, we pushed it about 4 miles and by then it was 12 noon so I had to set off back, fortunately he got a cart going to within ½ a mile of his destination. I went on duty at 1.30pm

Wednesday 18 April 1917 – Nothing special today, we are having bad weather.

Thursday 19 April 1917 – This morning an orderly came from the battalion to replace me, I was told to show him round and pack up and report to the officer in charge of the 5th DLI, details in ARRAS, RUE JEAN D’ARC, before going I have a bath in the billet where one of the men has been detailed off to heat water, also get a clean change. At 1.30pm I report to the officer, Captain Hill and for the present I am at the back HQ’s, I learn the battalion goes in the trenches tonight. Last night at the signals teatime were issued 2 parcels between 3 men, nothing was said who had sent them but on inquiring I learned the officers wives (signal) are responsible. We drew for turns, I got a package of muscatels (about 2lbs), tin of pears, 6 por. cake of chocolate, tin of coffee-a-lait, Harrods packed the parcels and very nice too I say.

Friday 20 April 1917 – My 22nd birthday. Reveille about 7.30am, breakfast at 8.30am, issue biscuits and a little butter. On a salvage fatigue at 10.30am – 2pm, the party went up about 2 miles from ARRAS and spread out coming back over, picking up any article on the way, salvaged an overcoat and some better equipment, while on this we saw what looked to be a battery of German guns, we all made to look at them and not until within five yards of them did we discover they were dummy guns, a good bluff too, a hollow tube about 8 inches diameter for the barrel of the gun mounted on wheels, practically made of tin and a gun emplacement had been dug to make the appearance more realistic. I thought our chaps had been slow not to turn them about but I thought later on it would only draw fire a place where lots of our chaps are knocking about.

Saturday 21 April 1917 – Out today from 9am to 2.30pm covering a much greater distance, I salvaged 6 reels of ammunition for a Lewis gun. Better weather yesterday and today.

Sunday 2 April 1917 – Today we have had a bread ration; a loaf between 6, small loaf, so it ran about a slice per man, there was also about 2 biscuits each. Out salvaging again today. Tonight went to C of E service, had to have a pass to get out.

Monday 23 April 1917 – Out again salvaging, yesterday morning an enemy aeroplane got over to one of our observation balloons and fired with his machine gun, I saw the men observers descend by parachute, the balloon was not damaged.

Tuesday 24 April 1917 – Out again today salvaging, bread ration last night, 2 loaves for 7.

Wednesday 25 April 1917 – Last night the battalion came out about 300 strong, they went out about 750. Been doing orderly work today, not yet returned to my company. Later after tea returned to my company.

Thursday 26 April 1917 – Fell in with the company for inspections at 5.15pm. We, the battalion entrained at ARRAS, disembarked at a station marching about 3 ½ KM to HILLING reaching billets at about 9.20pm

Friday 27 April 1917 – On parade today and fire piquet tonight.

Saturday 28 April 1917 – This morning, by his order, I was interviewed by the Colonel who asked about my proposed commission, said I could not be recommended unless I was an NCO, and made me a Lance Corporal. He said he would receive reports from my company officer as to my fitness and if satisfactory, would put my name into the General though at present no NCOs’ are going from this battalion.

Sunday 29 April 1917 – I am orderly corporal for the coming week and have had my first sick parade and other duties today, everything going off fine, Everybody seems as pleased as myself that I have been permitted and I certainly do feel happy. The other NCOs’ in the billet have adopted me one of them and everything has been a1.

Monday 30 April 1917 – Same duties as yesterday then tonight we have had an anniversary dinner celebrating our coming out held in a YMCA tent. Here in HALLOY, about 150 were present including men who came out, been to Blighty wounded and have come out again, Some have come from other battalions in the division, a nice hot dinner, roast beef, beans, potatoes, onions, ham followed by tapioca pudding and tinned fruit also nuts, oranges, cigar and cigarettes with beer for those who wanted it. The Colonel came in with some of the officers, gave an appropriate speech to the best, the 50th division , this so not to make any distinction between the 5th and the men from other battalions in the division, We sang ‘he’s a jolly good fellow’, then a sing song started and had a champion night finishing about 9.30pm.