The War Diaries of Roger Stamp: August 1915
Roger’s diary continues on from his last entry in July. He is now on the outskirts of Armentieres and established as one of his company’s bombing team – usually consisting of nine men at a time: an NCO, two throwers, two carriers, two bayonet-men to defend the team and two ‘spare’ men for use when casualties were incurred.
Sunday 1st August 1915 – … and of course had to keep on the alert all the while and not sleep, bombs were not thrown by any of the others. Sunday – we expected to be relieved tonight but it is not to be. Continue to do 1 in 2 hours at night, 1 in 4 daytime. Tonight have not to sleep in dug outs but outside, I guess the reason is that one or two chaps have been caught asleep on sentry. I know of one for certain and after first we came in the Captain warned us that this would take place if the men did not play the game.
Monday 2nd August 1915 – It rained tonight.
Tuesday 3rd August 1915 – The bombers of ‘A’ coy were relieved and sent to the Asylum competition for bomb throwing practise. Nothing except practise taking place on Wednesday 4th and Thursday 5th August 1915 except I have not yet had my regular parcel, I expect it is up the trenches. Had a bath today, later I went up to the trenches on ‘spec’ and got my parcel. Today the camp discharged.
Friday 6th August – The Relieved came from the trenches early this morning. I was called out of bed to act as a guide for ‘B’ Co[mpan]y to their billet but the Co[mpan]y came in another way. Yesterday our officer put a franc on a tin, the one who knocked it off to have it, three shots each allowed, throwing bombs. Twenty of us threw, I managed to hit the tin with the stick attached to the grenade and as this was the nearest and did knock the tin over, I got the franc. Today I went sick with my ear and the doctor cut the lump and took the bullet I was wounded with at SANCTURY WOOD. At hospital HAVRE I was treated for a gathered ear. I had no pain in getting the bullet out.
Saturday 7th August 1915 – Of course I had to attend the doctors to get my wound dressed. At dinner time a battery near us sent a lot of shells over and just as tea was ready the Germans answered, their shells coming in the Asylum grounds, two or three men being hurt. Moved tonight to the Blue Factory but not on account of the shells. We understood that we were only in the Asylum for a few days.
Sunday 8th August 1915 – Nothing particular only I had a splendid parcel from home.
Monday 9th August 1915 – I parade for dressing at the doctors. I must say that Dr Wilkinson is very attentive and could not have been more careful had he been charging a fee. Quite a different opinion I had of him while at NEWCASTLE, he once sent me back to parade with the battalion I had to buy some medicine myself but there are that many slackers, and were, that he must be strict or else the whole battalion would be on sick to get off parade. I well remember while at NEWCASTLE, lots used to parade sick when there was a trip home, the troops generally going before the battalion get back to billets.
Tuesday 10th August 1915 – Nothing special.
Wednesday 11th August 1915 – Up to today the dressing for my ear has been iodine and lint but today the iodine was stopped. I have had no pain what so ever.
Thursday 12th August 1915 – Bandage dispensed with altogether.
Friday 13th August 1915 – I saw a youth catching frogs today, he had a grapple of 4 hooks. The frogs here are not shy. I have sometimes tried to shift one and until the bit of earth or stone practically hit it, it would not move. The frog catcher lay his hook down in front of the frog, the hook being attached to a line and fishing rod, then with a swift movement pulled towards the frog and caught it. After landing he cut the hind legs off, that was all he wanted, then a couple of kids with sticks put the frog out of its misery. He said he got 1 franc for 100 and at the rate he was going would no doubt make a decent living. He said English frogs ‘no bon’ so there must be a difference. He was catching them from a ditch in the middle of a field, frogs seem to be very plentiful in the ponds and ditches. One frog when out had a little fish alive and I put it back in the water, the fish that is. I then went on my way to the baths and on coming back saw a dog working a large wheel, it was inside and as it walked the wheel went round and I found that a dairy was being worked in this way. The dogs also have to pull carts and are very strong. I saw two dogs not so big as a collie pulling a cart with 4 decent sized milk tins and a fair sized woman.
Saturday 14th August 1915 – Moved to trenches last night, the bombers are in support trenches having dug outs. I had a splendid parcel from home yesterday and of course brought it with me, salmon, pineapple, baked beans, sweets and chocolates, biscuits and cigarettes and butter. Also writing pad from Dad. Three men have to be on duty, being 2 hours each, and as there are nine of us without the corporal that means 2 hours on and 16 off, very good.
Sunday 15th August 1915 – Last night the bombers not on duty had to go on ration fatigue. Today, along with other letters, was some chocolate from G. Owens with a nice breezy letter. In the support trenches I notice a lot of little frogs, they must be have travelled a long way for I don’t know where the nearest ditch is. I wondered if there could be a land species, some are awfully pale and nearly all are clay coloured. About 11am rain started and up to about 3pm it continued on and off being awfully fierce, sometimes with thunder and lightning. Once hail stones came although it was not cold. Although I am in a dug out the rain came through, I had a fine time putting tins to catch the drops and dodging the same, but now about 5pm the sun is out, all is well except along the traverse the rain has gathered to about 4 inches deep. I have had a splendid tea thanks to all at home, having the baked beans. About 6pm the bombers not on guard had to help in a fatigue to go to the Miners’ Dump. As it was light we had to go along the communication trenches which were up to the knees practically in water in some places and of course after getting the goods, wire etc. we had again to come through it. Our own traverses contained up to 4 inches of water. After getting back I made another meal opening my salmon and making some tea. The salmon was a treat, I saved some for tomorrow putting it in a glass. I of course changed my socks and dried my puttees and boots the best I could, at 9pm had to go on guard.
Monday 16th August 1915 – Finished the guard at 7am, had a bacon breakfast, fried potatoes, remainder of salmon and part of pineapple for dinner. I intended keeping half of salmon and pineapple till tomorrow but I learn we are to move tonight so ate up instead of carrying it about. Had another heavy shower this morning and now about 4pm it is thundering and started to rain. Later we had to go on fatigue to carry wooden floorings along to the wet parts of the communication trenches, a pump had been on the go and a lot of water taken out. We took our puttees and socks off and doubled our trousers up, we had plenty getting wet yesterday. After coming back I made a fire and dried my boots the best I could. Having by this time getting dark so after preparing for the move laid down to sleep.
Tuesday 17th August 1915 – About 2am was awakened by our corporal. The company had moved without us and as the relieving force had not sent any men to relieve us our corporal had been instructing, and then we moved off ourselves. On reaching ARMENTIERES we met a battalion guard who directed us and shortly we found our billet. At 11.30 we had practise.
Wednesday 18th August 1915 – Practise again, we are in reserve although stationed right in the town and tonight the enemy sent some shrapnel, about six shells over the town which burst right near our billet, two we saw plainly. The enemy are not an hour’s walk from the town. The orders came for tomorrow, one was that each man must be washed and shaved before breakfast. I went out for a walk and when coming back past a barbers shop, the women were doing the work, a mother and two daughters I think, so as I needed a shave I went in, had to wait while the older one finished cutting a man’s hair, then she shaved me, a very good shave for 2d. I have seen women in the fields working, also at railway crossings at the gate. They are managing the shops and now barbering.
Thursday 19th August 1915 – Inspected today, paraded for baths and clean clothes and move to the trenches again tonight. Going out to get some bread to take up.
Friday 20th August 1915 – Moved up last night. Half of the bombers had to join the company to make strength up I think. I was one of them so for the time being am doing ordinary duties. 1 in four during the day and 1 in three at night, but no digging to do. A man in each traverse is told off and he does no guards during the day and at night sleeps all the while between ‘stands to’.
Saturday 21st August 1915 – The only incident to record is the 4th E[ast] Yorks mascot, a terrier dog, got on the parapet and was shot by the Huns.
Sunday 22nd August 1915 – My turn on digging today. I learn the dog was ratting.
Monday 23rd August 1915 – We can hear the Germans swearing and [screaming?] at us.
Tuesday 24th August 1915 – The enemy have a searchlight up here for finding working parties etc. I have seen it a few times, very powerful.
Wednesday 25th August 1915 – Moved out last night.
Thursday 26th August 1915 – Usual routine while out of trenches.
Friday 27th August 1915 – Had a bath in canal.
Saturday 28th August 1915 – To be inspected by our General. After inspection we had a march finishing up with a bath.
Sunday 29th August 1915 – There is a Wesleyan parade this afternoon.
Monday 30th August 1915 – Borrowed a bike from Signallers and looked for [brother] Albert including STEENVOORDE, DRANLIEU, near ESTAIRES, and returning by SAILLY but failed to find him. See letter home dated 31st August.
Tuesday 31st August 1915 – Moved to Asylum for restoral tonight.
Rogers diary continues with September 1915