Saturday 1st July 1916 saw the opening of the Somme Offensive.
Roger’s battalion were still in the area around Dickebusch, to the east of the Ypres salient. They did not take part in the disastrous first day of the ‘Big Push’ when more than 100,000 allied soldiers left their trenches to walk across no man’s land in the belief that the week long bombardment which preceded the attack would have destroyed any German resistance. There were more than 57,000 British casualties on this day alone, with 19,240 men being killed – most of these in the first hour.
Roger’s diary continues on from June…..
Saturday 1st July 1916 – The weather has not been so bad the last two or three days, today the sun is shining and is a splendid day. I intend going to see Albert again at POPERINGE if I can. Went to POPERINGE again getting a lift up on a motor lorry from RENINGHELST to POPERINGE. Albert was in and later in the afternoon we went to the pictures having tea there. He set me part of the way back, I getting back in good time for digging parade.
Sunday 2nd July 1916 – Wesleyan parade this morning, along with some other battalions, in the YMCA, stayed to the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper afterwards, carrying fatigue tonight.
Monday 3rd July 1916 – Usual parades. Went to the baths myself and had one, also change of clothing, we move to the trenches tonight.
Tuesday 4th July 1916 – The trench we are in is Strong Point 13, a short thunder storm today.
Monday 5th June 1916 – Moved to the trenches last night, ‘A’ company in support.
Thursday 6th July 1916 – Came to the firing line last night and am in L1 trench, we stood to for a while then sentries were told off, no one being allowed in the dugouts, having to sleep on the fire step during the night but we can go in the dugout during the day. We work 1 on 2 off at night time, 2 on and 10 off during the day then another hour each.
Friday 7th July 1916 – Today we were strafed with sausages (trench mortar) and precision shells, three of us were awakened by a shell bursting near so we got out and later on the Sergeant gave orders to move further along the trench, we did and sure enough the sausages followed us just as though we had been seen moving along, perhaps we had. A shower this morning but otherwise a nice day. Were relieved by one of our companies last night but before coming out we, the company, had to do about 3 hours’ work. We went in reserve, my platoon going in a broken shelled house, the cellars of which are used as a dressing station, the other part of the company went in a farmhouse called York house and it is used as battalion headquarters. It was 2am when we reached our billet, some tea was ready and we had to stand to at 3.15am. Have to go on guard tonight, it is a gas guard at night and aeroplane guard at daytime.
*No entry for Saturday.
Sunday 9th July 1916 – About 300 yds in front of our billet and across the road is a German’s cottage and he had several cows, the only ones to be seen. A guard is on the man and I was told he is made to send false messages. Several guns are near but there is no danger as the Germans will not shell one of their own places. Went to the firing line tonight, back to the same trench as before, but am in a different bay.
Monday 10th July 1916 – While on sentry between 12 and 1am a bombing raid took place about 250 yds to our right, we saw the bombs bursting, heard shouting and once or twice in the glare of the bombs bursting we saw a few of our chaps. We did not get told about it coming off. It was soon over. I have not yet heard anything about casualties. Shelling heavy by both sides including sausages from the Germans. Our trenches are in rather a state, I think the division which was in before us can not have worked at all, the parapets are very low and in my bay this morning the sentry was killed while standing on the bay floor by a rifle bullet.
Tuesday 11th July 1916 – Last night an attack took place, I believe on our right about Kemmel trenches as far as I can judge from the shelling which was very heavy. Came out to strong point 13 tonight. Had to work, after being relieved and before we came out.
Wednesday 12th July 1916 – Just had a working party to do tonight in S2 trench.
Thursday 13th July 1916 – A very dull day today, we go back to the trenches tonight.
Friday 14th July 1916 – We were in S2 trench last night. Had to go to ration fatigue, rained part of the night and we had no dugouts.
Saturday 15th July 1916 – The trench we are in is rather hot. We have to come into supports, till the enemy puts his straff over a fine day. We came down into supports yesterday also, and today after a light afternoon as regards sausages and bombs I thought it was over and went to the firing line to get my rations and while there the enemy started up again. I went back to supports and we had a hot half hour, one whizz-bang burst near me wounding one chap on my right and two on my left in the same bay.
Sunday 16th July 1916 – We were relieved last night and came to Siege farm and we are now in an old shed. Had a Wesleyan service this morning and I stayed for The Lords Supper. That chap who was killed in my bay on Monday had attended the last Wesleyan service we had before going to the trenches and I believe he stayed to the Lord’s Supper. On working tonight had to take wood on loggers to the RE [Royal Engineers] camp.
Monday 17th July 1916 – Parade to baths at WESTOUTRE. I now have two light coloured shirts so wash my own. On a carrying fatigue tonight. Fell in 8pm and got back about 3am.
Tuesday 18th July 1916 – Morning parade and working party tonight, we are getting nice weather at present. Fell in at 8pm and got back at 12pm.
Wednesday 19 July 1916 – Morning parade and instructions about the enemy gas attacks. Go to the trenches tonight.
Thursday 20 July 1916 – We came to reserve last night in KEMMEL, my platoon is in a house, I with some others being in the cellar. The company bombers have been in working today, having to make 3 journeys to the trenches with 6 Stokes trench mortars each journey. I was not on.
Friday 21 July 1916 – Last night the whole company paraded on the fatigue, all making one journey with a 60lb trench mortar each. Then the company bombers were sent back and we then had another journey. Had the inspection this morning of rifles. Nothing else until tonight. There is plenty of garden here and a bit of fruit to be had, apples, pears although they are not quite ripe.
Saturday 22 July 1916 – Had to fill sandbags last night. Moved tonight to Kemmel shelters (huts), no fatigues.
Sunday 23 July 1916 – No church parade, I don’t know why, except R C. Usual inspections. Had a walk to LOCRE and DRANOUTRE tonight. While there saw the 11th KRR [King’s Royal Rifles] transport coming in, they stop at LOCRE tonight.
Monday 24 July 1916 – Reveille at 5.30, breakfast at 6am then paraded to WESTOUTRE for baths, had medical inspection arms, chest for scabies, then usual rifle, bayonet and gas helmet inspection. After dinner went to LOCRE where the 11th KRR were and also found Albert had been there but moved off at 11.30am. I missed him by about 2 hours.
Tuesday 25 July 1916 – We moved into the trenches last night and am now in S 1+2. No 1 platoon is in support but nearly all the men are attached to other platoons. I with another two go on night patrol in an empty (dead) trench; we patrol all night then sleep during the day in supports. Today we slept till 3 pm and missed dinner. A little straffing today.
Wednesday 26 July 1916 – We are on patrol duty for the 3 days up here. This morning the enemy started early to strafe – waking us up several times and once the sausages and rum jars were so near we moved to a safer place. Later our artillery let Fritz have it hot. We are having very good weather now.
Thursday 27 July 1916 – Am orderly today, we have to go to SP [Strong Point] 13 for water. Very little shelling in front of us but it was heavy on our left. Came out of SP 13 tonight and I with others had to go to the trench to stand to all night. Fine weather now.
Friday 28 July 1816 – We came back to Strong Point 13 about 3.30am. Do no other duty today. Have had a bath in a shell hole.
Saturday 29 July 1916 – Had to ‘stand to’ at the barrier again last night till this morning. Had another bath in the shell hole today.
Sunday 30 July 1916 – Last night we had a working party instead of the barrier, finishing about 1am this morning. We are getting splendid weather now, we have had our coats off to keep cool a little.
Monday 31 July 1916 – Came to RC farm, the place which I called Siege farm. I fell last night on my left knee and it was very sore and stiff.
Roger’s diary continues with August 1916…