The War Diaries of Roger Stamp: January 1916

The War Diaries of Roger Stamp: January 1916

Rogers diary continues from his last entry of December 2015…..

Saturday 1st January 1916 –  …down, awakened at 5.30 for stand to and as the wind was favourable for the enemies as we had to stand to till 7.30am. The cooks made breakfast and I went for the mail to ‘A’ co[mpan]y who were at the redoubt at the back, then after breakfast rifle inspection and had to clean and count the bombs in a store. Dinner, meat only with some oxo cubes which had been left, I had a biscuit after. It is now raining, it is awful when it rains hard. At present with two others in the dugout. My bible reading today is the 7th Chapter of Proverbs. Rum was issued today, I had none but nearly all the bombers had, and it made them more or less drunk. Ration fatigue tonight.

Sunday 2nd January 1916 – This morning had to clean the trench up and then later on and this afternoon all of us were on putting mineral jelly on the bombs. This afternoon the enemy shelled us and we had to clear out of our dugout, the shells were very near but the dugouts were not damaged, nor as far as I know was anyone hurt. I am on guard tonight at the communication trench, we are on from stand to to stand to, 5.30pm to 5.30am and we are doing it 4 hours each having put the cables in. I am on last. We are a battery. We heard in the trenches that a hill in YPRES was being used. It rained about an hour when I was on guard.

Monday 3rd January 1916 – After breakfast we three guards slept till dinner time, then after dinner were on with the mineral jelly on the bombs. The same three of us had to go on listening post tonight the others having been on two nights.

Tuesday 4th January 1916 –We had reliefs this time in, slept again after breakfast then before dinner had my first wash of the year. After dinner we enjoyed part of my parcel, having the remainder for tea, had to clean up ready for moving out. Moved back the way we came through ZYLLEBECKE, Crusstratte [KRUISSTRATTE] and in to DICKEBUSH to the same huts, the bombers being in huts as a platoon this time. At about half way along the road we took our packs off and left them with a guard, the transport bringing them the rest of the way.

Wednesday 5th January 1916 – Nothing special myself today but A. Finch who is staying back in our camp, he is in the same brigade, looked me up.

Thursday 6th January 1916 – Tonight three of us went to DICKEBUSH, got some cards. We tried to get some chips but could not so got a tin of salmon and some sauce and had supper in our hut.

Friday 7th January 1916 – Just inspections today. On Wednesday we had our issue of Christmas pudding supplied by the Daily Mail and today our issue of a pint of beer was given out. Yesterday we had a bath and change.

Saturday 8th January 1916 – Moved to trenches this afternoon, getting in about 6.45pm having set off at 3.30pm and had three rests on the way. ‘A’ Co[mpan]y’s bombers had to go in the firing line as a section to do the listening post, we working 1 hour on the post, 2 hours on guard in trench and 2 hours rest.

Sunday 9th January 1916 – At stand to, 5.30am the post was finished, got our breakfast cooked on a platoon fire in the trench and had jam, bread and butter for dinner and cocoa, cooking this time on a spirit stove. Have no work to do, we will be up here for 4 days. I expect the tea will be made by the bombing platoon cooks in the support trench where the remainder of the platoon are. Bread and butter for tea.

Monday 10th January 1916 – Out in the front last night again working it the same as before, was writing a letter when an artillery burst started, the artillery on each side shelling the trenches. I finished my letter but was the only one left in our bay, the remainder had gone for safety and it was that hot just as I finished, shells were bursting all round, a bit came down at my feet. I gathered up my writing paper and letter and made for a safer place going about three bays along, being last man. I reread my letter, had got it in the envelope, put my pen in my pocket and just as I did this I got such a shock, I thought a sure blighty. I picked myself up from the ground having to shift some earth off my feet and, having gathered myself, I saw the shell had broken and knocked the parapet in, in the same bay. It had been some earth which had hit me, how I escaped an injury had been God’s mercy of course. I made further away but shells were then falling all along the line so all we all could do was to keep well down, the shelling would be on about 1½ to 2 hours altogether, then both sides calmed down about half an hour before stand to. We got no tea to drink till about 10am. While out last night a machine gun played on another part of the line and the bullets came over to where we were and we 2 of us on the post had to wriggle down in the mud at the bottom of the ditch till the gun stopped.

Tuesday 11th January 1916 – I looked for my razor yesterday and could not find it, I had it last shaving in the huts the day we came to the trenches. Had a wash today. This morning the bombers badges were given out to us.

Wednesday 12th January 1916 – Rained a little while out on the post last night. Moved to railway dugouts tonight.

Thursday 13th January 1916 – No fatigues today, rained hard for 2 hours.

Friday 14th January 1916 – After dinner today I thought I would again go to YPRES, we being in the same railway dugouts and farm as before, so I set off, earlier on I had noticed the ramparts ran round all the front of YPRES, this I had seen for the first time with the hopes of getting some bread and any other grub I might happen to find. I set out pure enough thoughts and simple. I crossed the fields and had a better look at the ramparts and over the moat or canal which ran round. I noticed a little foot bridge, a temporary structure made of trench boards, so also seeing a door over the bridge in the ramparts, thought I would explore and hoped to see a secret passage, perhaps underground, and over I went. Then when I reached the door I pushed it open and inside was a squad of military police. They wanted to know what I was doing round the ramparts, then where was my pass, business, where stationed. I was taken through to the other end of the tunnel which was a street, a hut being at the entrance and the L/Corp in charge left me with two of his men, went away. Oh what a funny position to be in, ‘nasty’ I thought, quite confident all would be well. Then after a while I had to go back to the end I came in and the L/Corporal again questioned me and finally decided his course, told a chap to get ready. I thought they were going to take me back or on the way to our billet, but no, back again through the tunnel and through the streets with a MP [Military Policeman] at each side of me. I was quite free and had a stick with me all the while. Then we came to a building in which was the Town Major, straight in front of him for being away from my battalion without a pass, into the guard room I had to go. I did not catch what the Town Major said. Now this was a right place to be in, it had been a barracks or police station or such building.

What a position to be in, but I thought I would soon be back with my battalion for they are only about a quarter hours walk away. The 2nd Durhams who were billeted here have had to move to the trenches. I had been given some tea and bread and butter by the guards. On account of the move I was taken to the military police till the next lot took over. The chap who brought me must have been looking for promotion for while doing his duty at the same time could have closed his eyes and this trouble would have been saved. Now here where I have got to go is the opposite class. The first words were ‘have you had any tea?’ ‘Yes!’ I was lent [a] paper to read and was just like a guest. A fire was lit, it just having turned 5pm. At 7pm we had tea and bread, but better still we had cups and plates, cigarettes sent round. About 9pm supper was ready a fine stew of ‘Machonacie’, here again I had a share.

The new lot having taken over and the MP [Military Policeman] wanting to go to bed I went down to the guard room, the police lending me two good blankets. I only had [my] tunic on, no overcoat or puttees. The Essex had taken over. Up to now I had not troubled at all, never expecting to be away from the battalion at the night. While in the guard room before with the Durhams, there were three others in, one had gone on leave, staying 32 days and being brought back, another staying 28 days on leave coming back on his own accord, while the other was drunk and disorderly, all three waiting for general Court Martial. About 12pm two Argyles were brought in drunk, they said they had both a pass but they too had been brought in by the Town Major. They had a fight with the police who brought them and refused to give any particulars.

Saturday 15th January 1916 – The police who brought the two men in last night came for all particulars, reg[iment] etc. this morning and the men being sober gave them. Later 10.20am one of the police I was with last night had just been along. ‘Am sorry I forgot about you this morning, will you have some bread and cheese now?’ was what he said. I’m sure it was good of them to remember but as I did not feel hungry, having had some tea from the guards, I did not prevail on the advantage I had, so asked him to take the blankets back, thanked him and if here at dinner time would have a feed. The corporal of the guard offered me half his bread and bacon but I did not take it. I only hope the escort will come soon. I must not forget the lesson in all this, it had no doubt been done for the best. I must never do harm and must even shut my eyes to a thing if there is no harm in doing it, the same as that L/Corp could have done in the first place. I think I have done a good turn where possible before this but in future I must put myself about a lot to do a good turn, not forgetting what has been done for me yesterday and today. While being in this confinement, the police and guards would only have their rations but willingly shared them with me. If I ever meet that L/Corp who caused this trouble again and it is possible to do him a good turn I will, and in doing so the memory of what he for me cut him and give him more remorse and pain than if I had done him an injury. I feel sure now there is some purpose in all this, it is for the best, whether the result comes out soon or in years to come, but yesterday I was going to postpone the reading of my Bible but something said don’t put off, you may not have such an opportunity today as this, so I did read. That chap brought me a big stew for dinner also some bread. In the afternoon I went with the corporal of the guard to the Town Major’s office which is in the building to see if they had informed my battalion. The Major was out but the clerk told me they had sent word. I got a book to read out of a reading room which was in the cellar and had not got interested in it when three heads appeared in the doorway, my escort had come.

The corporal in charge had been to the office so we went straight away, I between two men, they had rifles, and the corporal behind. We got round the corner and they all slung arms and I got my stick which the corporal had been carrying. All we set off to look for an eating house and learned of one in Krussbeck [KRUISEKE] so we went [and] found it, had cocoa, pears, biscuits then finished off we set back and only when in sight of the dugouts did we fall in military style. One of our chaps seeing me gave me the look and shouted of the others in the section but they were too late. Was handed over to the corporal of the guard, the corporal came over and then as I had asked a chap brought my tea. Oh what fuss there had been, there had been a digging party last night, the bombers having to attend, our corporal said I had not been detailed for it when I was missed but as I had not turned up at 12 when they came back he had to report.

Our Company Commander Major Raimes, the Adjutant and a Grenadier officer had all been round to our dugout huts and Capt[ain] Glasspool had sent for our corporal, the company all awakened, the thought was that I had been hit by a shell. Kelso said he had had no sleep, nor Revell, all through poor me! I have now got my head down in the guard room but before turning in I had a shave and cleaned my puttees ready for the morrow.

Sunday 16th January 1916 – A real nice morning. Tom Kelso brought my breakfast over, at 10.45am I had to go to company office, Major Raimes could not understand me, a chap like I was, so he said, and what would it be if everybody did the same thing. Of course he had no option then to send me to battalion office, I being charged with (1) breaking billets and (2) trying to enter YPRES without a pass. At battalion office the Major, Raimes, gave me a ‘good character’ and then Colonel Spence said it was almost a case of court martial, sentencing me to fourteen days on each charge, 28 days in all No 2 Field Punishment. Was handed over to the guards. I do think the sentence far too heavy but will not of course show it, furthermore I will not forget it and the memory will no doubt keep me out of further trouble, I am only sorry that my leave will be interfered with. I can only work well and if possible do anything special.

My corporal had shielded me up to 12 midnight on Friday, the bombers having to go out digging, the Corporal said I was not warned but as I had not turned up he had no option than then report [it]. Today he was up for not reporting sooner but as far as I know he has not got into any trouble. I sincerely hope he will not either. I have with this trouble learnt that notice has been taken of me and that my Company Officer, Major Raimes, and petty officer Capt Glasspool, two men I like and whos[e] opinion I esteemed, had been more concerned than I had beforehand known.

At 4pm the Yorks guard took over and I was then free to go and get my pack ready. Moved to the trenches later on and as we were going we passed a graveyard, a minister in khaki was reading the service by flashlight and round the grave were about four men seeing the last of their comrade. We went in the same dugouts as before but later on ‘A’ Co[mpan]y had to go to Davison St. in dugouts, the bombers that is.

Monday 17th January 1916 – Today we started, ‘A’ Co[mpan]y, to make a bomb store but the enemy started shelling the trenches, so did our artillery, so we had to stop. Some shells dropped very near my dugout, just about lifting the roof off. The newest hole is about 3yds away, a hole about 3½ yards in diameter. The shelling lasted about three hours altogether. Once I decided to seek safer quarters, my mate had gone before, but the shells were flying so thick and fast it was impossible to move then. I managed to write a letter home explaining my recent trouble and wrote to ‘John Bull’ for a hair cutting machine. Have been on ration party tonight.

Tuesday 18th January 1916 – Had to work on our dugouts during the day but it rained so stopped a lot of work the section had. Finished an officer’s dugout tonight, we got some pea soup after it.

Wednesday 19th January 1916 – The enemy and our artillery have been at it again for a good two hours but the shells were aimed at the trenches, we had 10 wounded on Monday, but don’t know of any today. Later 9 wounded, I learn tonight the section had to repair some parapets which had been knocked in by shells, we got half a pint of coffee after it. After the bombardment I found a knife, a good pocket one, so showed it to Lieut[enant] Jones and asked if he recognised it but he did not so I kept it, but today,

Thursday 20th January 1916 – Lieut[enant] Meek came for it. Had to take a few boxes of bombs to a store and clean up our dug out and the trench ready for moving out. Received orders to report to the Provost Sergeant when we got to DICKEBUSH which I did. I had to go to the guard room to stay while down here.

Friday 21st January 1916 – At 3.20pm one of the police came for me and another chap who was in, he had 7 days No 2 for sleeping without his gun and we had to put some rubbish into the incinerator and stayed till 4pm when we were done. We go to the cooks for our meals. We have a YMCA tent in the camp now, I managed to get some chocolate and writing paper tonight.

Saturday 22nd January 1916 – Had a little digging to do, a hole to put rubbish in.

Sunday 23rd January 1916 – Reported sick but the corporal did not come for me. The MP [Military Policeman] came for me to do a fatigue but as I had reported sick I had not to go.

Monday 24th January 1916 – Reported sick and saw the doctor, it is my toe, still bad. I have to go to the Scottish Lines. I with others, some sick, others going for machine gun and bomb instruction, fell in at 3pm and we marched, rather hobbled, the roads are awful, and eventually reached a camp called the Scottish Lines. The sick are in one hut, we have plenty of room and two blankets each. There is a splendid YMCA here I found out, a splendid big place and I was soon enjoying a slab of cake and mug of tea. There is an arrangement for taking photos of parents at home free, I filled a form in and from the library I got permission to bring a book away. A service was held, the waiter closed while it was on and all hats off from the counter chief. A chap who had the service is I believe one of the Wesleyan ministers whom I heard at ARMENTIERES. The tent is still decorated from Christmas and is champion.

Tuesday 25th January 1916 – The sick men had to give the engineers a little help with a hut this morning and this afternoon put coke in bags for the GQM. I learnt a parcel for me had been sent to DICKEBUSH where half the company is so I went to get it. I got to DICKEBUSH and learnt that two men had gone for the mail about 10am this morning and had not arrived back then, about 3pm. They had left long before me but I went by the fields, the way we came yesterday.

I had asked the company storeman to keep my mail back and felt very vexed at him for causing me the journey, my foot was very bad too. I set off back without the parcel, I had visions of the men being drunk and the parcels smashed or eaten. I wondered if I had been missed as I had not permission to go and of course am still on with my 28 days. I got back very tired, was glad to see that they had not been out and someone said ’here’s the bomber.’ I thought it was trouble but one of the chaps going on leave shortly wanted me to see if a bomb was safe to take home as he wanted a souvenir. I was relieved, then I was told that my parcel had not gone but was still at the QM [Quartermaster’s], it had been a mistake or the chaps looked through the mail and left it.

Wednesday 26th January 1916 – The sick men had to work digging on a hole in which was to be buried two mules which were going to be shot having sulphur poison.

Thursday 27th January 1916 – Had to help putting coke into small bags for the Quarter Master and was taken from that, four of us, to help take a small hut down. It has rained today and my fur coat and 2 blankets I had put out to air got wet so tonight I am going to borrow a blanket. This morning I was not working so took the opportunity of melting some bits of nosecaps I had. I have now have the aluminium moulded round a stick ready for cutting up and filing into rings. I put the pieces of shell on the fire in the incinerator using a jam tin which was all one piece, not a soldered bottom or the heat would have made it fall off. While it was getting hot, to melt the aluminium clear of the other metal, I got a tin which had had fruit in, filled it with wet clay, forced a sauce bottle which I found nearby down the centre of the clay which made a hole about 1½ inches diameter, cut a bit of stick about 5/8 inch thick, put this in the centre of the hole and when the aluminium was melted poured it in the hole round the stick. When it got cold it came away on the stick clear of the clay, I now want some files.

Friday 28th January 1916 – Had to unload a wagon and clear a place for boards to be put across a ditch. This afternoon I went to the YMCA and wrote a long letter, taking the book back, I got another out.

Saturday 29th January 1916 – Other mornings while in the sick hut, we have slept till breakfast, being called by the cooks and our orderlies set the example having to go for it, then we had to get up for it, but today we were called up at 5.30am, had breakfast and fallen in for baths at 6.45am. We went to POPERINGE and had a bath and change, while going I kept to the rear so with limping I did not spoil the step and could make my own. I managed to keep up going but saw no need, in fact I could not rush so fell out and was soon left behind but did not mind, I saw a cottage on the road with eggs, chips, bread and coffee chalked on the door so I had some, it was then only 9.10am by a clock in the cottage, rather early but the woman of the house soon had the meal ready, in fact a pan of chips were cooking and with the stoves they have out here there was no need to wait till they were done to put my two eggs on. I saw the man of the house chopping potatoes in the yard and while eating my meal more potatoes were put on and then bread was sliced, ready for the night I expect. The woman said plenty of soldiers came for eggs and chips. I asked if she was French or Belge. Belge and had come from YPRES she answered.

After I had finished and about half way back I got a lift up on a cart, some of our soldiers driving it and we passed four other sick men who had dropped out and they too got a ride, we being taken very near our huts. An RAMC who had dressed my toe and foot before did it this afternoon and advised me to go to the doctors. In our hut we were all ‘no duty’ men but we had to do any fatigue there was, the only option was to walk about 3½ miles to the doctors, taking our pack in case we had to go in hospital, but it was easier to do a fatigue. The RAMC chap told me to rest my foot so I did not go on fatigue this afternoon. I wrote and today put a letter in to the Secretary, War Office, London, about my allotment transferring it to Annie from mother telling them I had written before.

Sunday 30th January 1916 – I reported sick and was ready for hospital when the Sergeant in charge came for the men, ‘come on Stamp.’ ‘I’ve reported sick.’ ‘Well they have gone’, so I had to do orderly, why they had not let me know when they went I don’t know. I was opposite and only about three yards from the hut of the MP [Military Policeman] who has at present to take the sick men to hospital. Had my foot dressed again and did no fatigues.

After tea a Sergeant came for me, the Captain wanted me, Wood is now in command of our company. I thought could it be my leave he wanted me about. I went up and found he had a letter in his hand, it was the one I had written to the Secretary, War Office. ‘Did you not know,’ he said, ‘that it is against orders to write to the War Office direct.’ ‘No’. ‘Then you are the only one in this battalion who does not know, you must have gone about with your eyes shut.’ I said there was nothing wrong in the letter. ‘It does not matter, it is against order[s], think yourself lucky you aren’t in trouble through it, you mention in the letter the other letter has not been answered, no wonder, it will never have reached its destination.’ ‘What will I have to do?’ ‘Get a form filled up, give it to the Quarter Master and he will put it to the orderly room to be forwarded.’ He gave me the letter and advised me to tear it up. I thought it pretty rotten to be pulled up through such a thing, the letter which I am keeping was not a grumble or complaint against the battalion but merely an application.

I have recollected since that it was on orders at NEWCASTLE about letters after someone had written a letter of complaint about something. On second thoughts I think it was decent of Wood warning me, he could have made trouble or have torn the letter up and let me remain in ignorance and waiting for an answer.

Monday 31st January 1916 – Reported sick this morning but the MP had no sick reports and did not take any sick because the battalion is coming out tonight and our own doctor will be tending the sick tomorrow, of course I did not do any work. Tonight half the company ‘A’ who have been resting out have marched to POPERINGE to the Fancies, our new Captain meeting them. I had the opportunity of going but did not as I knew I could not do a quick march there and back owing to my foot. A guard was mounted and I was again under detention. I learn two chaps who were waiting for Court Martial before the battalion went to the trenches, had been tried up in the trenches, one for being found asleep on duty in the trenches while on sentry, he got sentence of three years, but sentence had not to be carried out, for the chap had carried a wounded man along the trenches to the dressing station and had been hit by a sandbag after a shell burst. The other got 28 days No 2 for disobeying an order.

Rogers diary continues with February 1916