The War Diaries of Roger Stamp: February 1916

The War Diaries of Roger Stamp: February 1916

Roger’s diary continues from his last entry of January 1916

Tuesday 1st February 1916 – Went to our own doctors, had my foot dressed getting no duty. A chap was given 10 days No1 for not obeying an order today, and is now in the guard room.

Wednesday 2nd February 1916 – Still on sick. I have an old boot from the battalion boot makers, he cut it as I wanted.

Thursday 3rd February 1916 – We had some rain last night.

Friday 4th February 1916 – Had quite a storm during the night, up to last night we had had a good run of fine weather.

Saturday 5th February 1916 – This is a splendid morning, a pleasure in itself. I have been thinking rather seriously, a letter I had from Mother yesterday set me in the strain. To succeed in life a plan must be made. I have come to this conclusion, a plan or ideal, just the same as a builder with a house to build, some people may be able to grasp a chance when it comes but others miss that chance because they are not qualified, some who have grasped the chance may have to let it go because they are not proficient to keep the position, but the man who maybe for years has been learning and making himself proficient, he sees the chance, it is one of the corner stones of his house; in the building he grasps that chance and because he is proficient he keeps that position which he has got, from that if he is not satisfied he will continue to make himself proficient and when another chance comes, will take and get that, while others who had the same opportunities and would not work, after seeing a man rise will say ‘isn’t he lucky.’

I don’t believe a chap who is underhand, a greasepot or sneak, who does not fight fair against competitors, he will not succeed and it is not good for a man once risen to work those under him to gain advancement. Fair play and fair dealings, a helping hand when possible or when necessary, along with good words, good work, a clean mouth and heart, these will win through and bring happiness. Money will not bring happiness if not earned fairly. Money lending for profit is no game, but a fair investment is good. I am resolved, and may God help me to keep these resolves, that I will look after Mother and Dad and Annie if I can at all possibly do it, for they have done splendid for me always and especially while being out here. I do believe they have often denied themselves to send me parcels of luxuries. Before the war I went to a night school to improve my knowledge and learn the theory of shipbuilding.

I was getting the practical side at work, I was hoping to later on take a course in the same subject from the International Correspondence Schools or similar institution. This I would no doubt have done had not the war interfered. I don’t know how far this is going to interfere with my trade, then there is the possibility of my being unable to follow my trade, if I should be injured during the war. A great deal will depend on when the war will finish. My hearing is sometimes very bad but I trust that will be better, having prayed to God for good hearing, and when I need it I shall get it. It is easy to conjure things in one’s mind but whether I advance as a fireman, get a good job or bad at my trade or anything else, I must not forget that my parents in the autumn of their lives, must be free from worry and have the best possible care, whether my brothers see eye to eye with me or not I must do my utmost, then if they are in a position and do help it may make things better for

Mother and Dad or if they are rather tight with me , it will be a bit of relief if they share. May God remind me of this so that I will do my best for Mother and Dad and get into a position to do that best. My idea is to get a house for them with a garden and sufficient money to live on without having to consider each little luxury, not to have to live in either my house or my brothers as they may feel beholden, for I know how much pride there is in our family and it sometimes hurts, that pride.

Sunday 6th February 1916 – The battalion moved to the trenches tonight but I have to stop down again on sick.

Monday 7th February 1916 – Again in the sick hut, I had to clean some bicycles today.

Tuesday 8th February 1916 – The sick men paraded to the Northumberland’s doctor, this regiment now being at the Scottish Lines, afterwards had to continue cleaning the bicycles.

Wednesday 9th February 1916 – We are getting extra fine weather now, it is glorious. Today a lot of aeroplanes passed over our camp. I counted 15, someone said there was 18 but another chap verified my number. They all came over together as though they were going on an air raid. My hearing is getting worse, today I had to tell the chap next to me not to mind if he talks and I, not hearing properly, come to other conclusions other than is meant and am sure my answers must seem silly. Had to fill bags of coke this afternoon.

Thursday 10 February 1916 – Paraded with the sick and the doctor said I had to go to hospital; about 1pm I had to go up the road to an ambulance car and a chap from the NF [Northumberland Fusiliers] and I were taken to a place called The Mill dressing station. It had been a mill. Others arrived about the same time, we had to put our packs in the store, dinner was on the go, it was some real good stew, plenty of vegetables and then rice to finish. Shortly after dinner all the newcomers had to go and be inspected by the doctor, after being sent to a loft which ran the length of the building. The chaps in were being cleared out. For tea we had biscuits, they having run short of bread. We had stretchers to sleep on and two blankets each. There was soup for supper.

Friday 11th February 1916 – After dinner we were all again dressed and after a Chaplain came in, gave writing paper out and we were just going to have a service when names were called out, the men to get their packs, I was one, we were to be cleared. Tea was ready about 3.30pm and at 4pm were put in various conveyances, I with others being put in an ambulance cart and we set off, arriving after about two hours journey, passing through POPERINGE at our destination. It has rained all today so it was a miserable ride and the covers were on the sides to keep the rain off so we saw nothing of POPERINGE. Put our packs in the store, had to see the medical officer and when all were ready we were put in groups and taken to huts. There were with us about 40 to 50 men in our hut, some of them already in, being in the 5 DLI. Here again had we had stretchers and 2 blankets. We had cocoa for supper.

Saturday 12th February 1916 – The meals we get in a dining hut, we had splendid roast and vegetables and a good plate of rice and sultanas. The doctor came to our hut and we were dressed here as well. I saw in yesterday’s issue of the Daily Mail a report dated Thursday 11th saying that on Wednesday, 18 of our machines took part in an air raid, all getting back safe. These perhaps are those I saw going over. My foot had been going on alright, the last two dressings being dry, but this morning the doctor ordered foments so the wounds have been reopened by the wet lint.

Sunday 13th February 1916 – A fresh doctor saw us today and I have to stay in bed, he ordered, the orderly brings my food.

Monday 14th February 1916 – The same doctor as yesterday, and was carried to the next hut where all are lying patients.

Tuesday 15th February 1916 – Still a bed patient, at one side of me is an old sailor who can tell a good yarn, he had been knocked down and run over by a transport wagon. The other side is a Regimental Sergeant Major with rheumatics. NCO men are all the same here. I got the recipe of the liniment for rheumatics, I thought it may do Dad good yet.

Wednesday 16th February 1916 – Here is a sketch of the day. We are awakened, if not already awake, by the orderly, ‘come on, it’s nearly breakfast time’. Some go and get washed before, others after breakfast. The whistle is blown when the breakfast is ready and those who are not bed patients go in a large hut used as a dining hall. Here two slices of bread with bacon is already out for the men, 12 to a table, the table is covered with a white washable cover, then comes the tea, coffee or cocoa whichever is made. After breakfast two patients who are not very bad will sweep up, shifting the bed patients who have had a similar breakfast to us in bed, unless ordered light or special diet. The orderly comes and takes our temperature and perhaps give us an opening pill. We read till the doctor comes, the Belgian paper woman having been round selling papers, those who are able to get up are round the fire, the doctor comes in, they spring to attention who are up, then he sees the men and after writing the prescription on the report, each man has one, passes to the next man [till] he is finished. The orderlies who have done the round with the doctor now start their work, dressing. When that is finished it is well on to dinner time, for dinner we have an ordinary diet, meat and vegetables, done as a rule very tasty, then follows either rice or sago pudding. The afternoon is generally taken up with reading or spinning yarns, maybe a letter is written but not mainly for writing paper is scarce, we not being able to get any and our letters and parcels are not forwarded to us but kept with the battalion, although some battalions in our division send all the sick men’s letters to them here. It could be done by all the battalions with a little extra work. For tea we have two slices of bread and butter and jam or instead of jam we have had once a few dates and once a few figs. After tea some get settled down for the night and about 7pm tea, coffee, cocoa or oxo is brought to the huts for supper and then all settle down after the fire has been built up, which as a rule burns till the next morning. On a morning all the stretchers which the patients who can get up are placed in a corner making more room in the hut. At night the orderly comes once again and takes our temperature.

This afternoon we had an issue of cigarettes, matches and also a bar of chocolate.

Thursday 17th February 1916 – Tonight after supper I asked the sailor next to me what was done to him when he first crossed the equator. I had read one account in ‘From Ship’s Boy to Skipper’, and he told me a similar story. He with the others who had not crossed were brought out one by one by a ‘bobby’ (PC). After the charge was read out the president sentenced him first to be shaved, this with a big wooden razor, then given a pill, this was a big lump of soap, and finally to cast his body to the deep, so over he was thrown and in his case he got an extra ducking by two mates who were waiting for him.

Friday 18th February 1916 – I went to the dining hall this morning for breakfast and when we were nearly finished, crash, a shell burst and the sound was very near. We all looked up and in another second another came and then some chaps rushed for the door, but the orderlies shouted ‘stop in, the aeroplanes are going away!’ It was aeroplanes who have dropped the shells; had not the men taken notice of the orderlies there would have been a rush and I’m sure a calamity for it was only an ordinary light door and would have taken very little to jam it. We heard more shells but each one was further away, I was near a window and saw men outside rushing all over, the majority to a railway line just a field away to take cover in some trucks. I heard after that 2 RAMC had been hurt by a bit of shell. There were about 10 shells altogether.

Saturday 19th February 1916 – This morning after having my foot dressed was taken to an ambulance and along with some others to MONT-DES-CATS, a hospital in a monastery. There are still some monks here, the common dress is a brown smock with hood, sometimes a blue overall and one or two who I expect are ‘Infirmaires’ wear white smocks and black scarfs. Had a bath, clean change and given a blue suit.

Sunday 20th February 1916 – We had a concert last night in a large room used as a recreation and dining room. Then [indecipherable, describes the sleeping arrangements, two patients in each cubicle]… have… between us, it is about 7 feet square and are 64 of them in our large long room, the centre of which forms a corridor and is about 10yds wide. Over each doorway, there is no doors, is a name of a saint and under it a space for another name, that of the monk I think. There are, looks as though, curtains have been used instead of doors. The monastery is formed similar to a square, the church taking one end.

Here the diary contains a diagram of a square, with the letter ‘A’ marked on the left hand side. Arrows indicate that the right hand side was used by the monks, and the lower edge represents the dining room etc.

This side is used by the monks and we are not allowed there, it being divided off.

This side is condensed and downstairs is the dining room and some offices, upstairs being used by us, the same as ‘A’. In the reading room is quite a feature in the shape of a scrap news book, called ‘News from Home […], all interesting cuttings and pictures pasted on paper and formed into a magazine. The other parts of the monastery, stables, workshop, brasserie [indecipherable].

Monday 21st February 1916 – It has been awful cold today. I and some others wore our overcoats monastery is not at all heated. We have one stove upstairs in our long ward, it is at the side between two beds and not more than ten can get near it. I thought there would have been some heating apparatus for there is here a little place for making electricity with which the place is lighted and as a luxury not sufficient to light the place. The monks are an industrious lot and seem quiet, some of them sign but have not seen any stop and speak. There is a bit of land all enclosed in high walls, the monastery inside, and all over the top of a hill and is high up. I have seen the place from STEENVORDE and POPERINGE. I understand the sea can be seen from here on a clear day, I have seen a good distance and not a clear day. Some of the monks were breaking some ground this afternoon. Tonight after the recreation room had been cleared I went where I could have a view down the hill. The cottages and villages showed their lights… also could be seen, it just looked like [walking?] downwards to the stars. In the distance the star lights could be seen [indecipherable].

Tuesday 22nd February 1916 – There has been a little snow during the night and when I went down to the dining hall part of the corridor looked out on to a garden. There was a monk in white with a hood on and he just looked like a snowman. Of course the monks are a curiosity to the chaps here. Later, it has rained heavy all day. I went out after dinner to get a view of the country but when in the open the snow was so white it dazzled my eyes, just as the sun would, looking straight at it. I went out later and could see a bit further than before, although this time a wall about 100 yards along was very indistinct, and beyond that was a haze as though we were above the clouds, maybe we were, and it may still be snowing lower down. I spoke to the doctor about my hearing and later on he examined them using an instrument in the dressing room and told the assistant to do something which was put some drops in. The chap who shares the cubicle with me has to go down the line today. I have not forgotten how much better off I am here than in the trenches. It must be awful for them.

Wednesday 23rd February 1916 – I notice the monks who wear white have a circlet of hair round their heads not artificial but trained so that to look at from a distance of 10yds looks like a circlet of hair about ¾ inch thick. We had a service last night C of E. I felt like writing poetry so I went up after the service to my cubicle and started. I prayed to God for his help. First I wanted to put in verse the view from the monastery before and after the snow. I got 1½ verses done before lights out. This morning I attended Holy Communion but did not partake of it. I felt last night a desire to attend it as I did on Whit Sunday. After breakfast I continued and finished the poetry before the doctor came, and after my foot was dressed I copied it out again correcting any mistakes. This morning I had a run, the country is white only the bare trees showing black.

Thursday 24th February 1916 – The snow still settles. Yesterday I was allowed out, so may be each day, and had some eggs, bread and butter and coffee and brought back some figs….. near by there is a little village about 10 houses near. I saw inside the monks’ chapel, it is small and like other churches very pretty. I have not been able to see inside the monastery church, it is locked when service is not on.

Friday 25th February 1916 – More snow today. At the end of the dining hall painted on the wall, taking all the end up, were three pictures, the centre one is in colours, of the crucifixion, one side of the cross is the mother of Jesus and some women, the other side the disciples dressed as the monks here are dressed. Above in the clouds are angels praying and below is a man coming up from a vault, a very good picture. 15 x 12 feet or thereabouts, and in black and white, painted one side is God, reproaching Adam and Eve who are hiding behind the bushes, the serpent on the ground. The other side is the angel with a sword of fire in her hand turning them away. These are about 6 feet wide and 12 high.

Saturday 26th February 1916 – I have to go to the base today, seeing patients are only kept here a week and I am not quite fit. I go to the station, fall in at 7.30pm. I have been on light Duty all the while here, those with light duties have to wash the place out each day. Taken down to 50 Division Clearing Station in HAZEBROUCK. There are female nurses here, very nice of course.

Sunday 27th February 1916 – I went out last night to a shop nearby and got some sweets and muscatels for today. Had an orange given here and two lots of cigarettes. After dinner all were taken in cars to the station railway. At the MONT DES CATS my ammunition was kept off me and at the Clearing Station all our kit was kept, we being allowed to take the haversack to keep any personal things. While in the train corridor, 8 in a compartment and a stretcher overhead each side, making ten altogether, we had tea and supper, cigarettes and chocolate, arriving at BOULOGNE at 9pm. Taken in motors to No 8 Stationary Hospital and finally to N ward. We had a bath and change, also a blue suit and slippers. There are proper beds here.

Monday 28th February 1916 – Our hospital is quite near the sea but I have not been able to get out to view it yet. We had some rain yesterday, it is raining now.

Tuesday 29th February 1916 – After the doctor had been I had a walk in the grounds, they go to the cliff edge but of course there is some wire hedging to prevent us from falling. I saw about 20 fisher wives all gathering shell fish on the rocks below. I came back and was told the doctor had marked me Convalescent Camp and after dinner I went with others to it. It is just opposite the hospital over the road. After being enrolled I was put in a marquee, 9 in each, they are all marquees here and beds, paliasses and 3 blankets, electric light and stove.

Rogers diary continues with March 1916 …