The War Diaries of Roger Stamp: June 1917

The War Diaries of Roger Stamp: June 1917

Roger’s Diary continues on from May 1917

Friday 1 June 1917 – A nice easy day + fine. The majority of the men are to be inoculated this afternoon; I was done in March at the division.

Saturday 2 June 1917 – Just lectures this morning for a short time.

Sunday 3 June 1917 – Had a Wesleyan service this morning. The weather is lovely at present, I’ve had a cold shower bath each day since it was erected.

Monday 4 June 1917 – Today a reorganisation of the company took place, now we have two instead of four platoons; in each platoon is a bombers, rifle, grenade and Lewis gun section. I have the bombing section in my platoon. This afternoon had a working parade for clothes; I got a shirt and handkerchief.

Tuesday 5 June 1917 – An easy day today, on the morning parade part of the time was given to section commanders to deal with their sections in detail, myself of course speaking on bombs and bombing. On Friday last our remaining blanket was taken in, the commencement of summer months. The weather is lovely though very hot in the middle of the day, the nights especially are great.

Wednesday 6 June 1917 – Yesterday afternoon and tonight after tea had instructions on putting out barbed wire.

Thursday 7 June 1917 – On parade at 8am for the rifle range followed by bombing. Fell in at 2.30pm for brigade manoeuvres getting back at 9pm. We did a rear guard action; the battalion was in HERLERTINE when attacked by the remains of the brigade. ‘A’ coy had to, while retiring, prove a cheek also mislead the enemy. We finished up in the original line held by the British before the big advance.

Friday 8 June 1917 – Morning parade no running parade today, then tonight men who had not been inoculated for a specified time were inoculated today for a second dose, this being done last Friday for the first. The weather is hot; when on parade we have coats and puttees off for running then for morning parade is fighting kit and steel helmet.

Saturday 9 June 1917 – The men who were not in reveille had to parade at 8.45am, we went on the rifle in bombing range finishing the morning with bayonet instruction. This afternoon a bath parade and clean change, then when we got back an alteration was made in the huts owing to reinforcements coming here last night. A concert was held by the Teesside Jesters, men from the 5th DLI and very nice too.

Sunday 10 June 1917 – Wesleyan parade this morning in COIGNUEX church army hut.

Monday 11 June 1917 – Had very heavy rain and thunder during the night which awakened me, Am battalion orderly Corporal today, owing to this and the rain I did not have a cold shower today.

Tuesday 12 June 1917 – A fine day, with the exception of Sunday night, here have had lovely weather. Between dinner time and 6pm, 25 francs was lost or stolen from my pay book, I think stolen, but instead keeping quiet not telling anyone hoping in this way to find out if he be a thief he will sooner or later give himself away, then it will be him and me for it. I have been reading the book of Job and his patience when he lost all, it is possible I am having a trial and tonight I thanked God for trying me if he has done so. Strange that 15 francs were left in my book, I’ve never to my knowledge lost anything out of it before.

Wednesday 13 June 1917 – Tonight a boxing tournament was held followed by a concert by the same party as on Saturday last, we had and half hours extension. The platoon has been rearranged I’m still over the bombers section now having 10 men and a L/C who has just been made, a chap I like and think I will get on well with.

Thursday 14 June 1917 – On the rifle range this morning and paraded to COUIN to the baths, here is an open air swimming bath, fine.

Friday 15 June 1917 – Reveille at 2am, breakfast at 3am ready to move off full pack at 4am. Marched to a camp near BOYELLES reaching here at 10am approximately, from which place we go to the trenches. There is a park belonging to a factory and is being used for a swimming bath, I heard of it so I went down but just as I arrived the tank was being cleared, it being reserved for officers from 6 to 8pm. Had a look round the place, which is in ruins, finding a YMCA and three dry canteens. Last night our Wesleyan chaplain held a service in the church army hut at CRIGNIAUX, I went and gave a testimony and after the service enrolled as a member of the LSD ( League for Spiritual Development) a new idea of the chaplain to give help and comradeship to the men from the men in a battalion, members that is when it is not possible to gather together for service if it comes off. One man in each battalion will be asked to act as a secretary, then when possible to hold a big mass meeting when out of the trenches.

Saturday 16 June 1917 – Reveille 7am, very tired this morning, after breakfast had an inspection of iron rations and helmets and after which I went for and enjoyed a fine swim at BOYELLES, this afternoon have been busy with other NCOs arranging men for various posts up the line. Up to the present, 3pm, I am not to go up but the list is liable to be altered, I quite expect I will be going up to give Major Raimes the opportunity to see what I am like as an NCO in action. Everything is for the best whichever I do.

Sunday 17 June 1917 – Wesleyan parade in a YMCA four hundred yards away at 10.30am, rifle and box respirator inspection at 12.30pm. There has been a little alteration as regards to the trenches, I am to go up. Today our platoon officer asked for volunteers for a patrol tonight, when we get up if possible to get a prisoner but not to make a raid. Along with this I volunteered, I don’t know if I am to get with the patrol, went for a bath tonight but it was again reserved for officers so I had not one.

Wednesday 18 June 1917 – In the trenches in front of CHERISY and FONTAINS Wood, the spare section is at Hd Qrs, we have a good dugout, ten steps down to it. Went with a party to some of our posts with rations.

Tuesday 19 June 1917 – Last night went to meet rations at the dump, sorted them and arranged parties to go direct to posts instead of first to Hd Qrs, I took up the men with rations for 4,5 and 6 posts. The weather was great before we came up the trenches but we have had unsettled weather since coming in, the rain making the trenches bad, there are no trench boards.

Wednesday 29 June 1917 – Did the same last night with rations.

Thursday 21 June 1917 – Rations again last night, unsettled weather. Tonight we get relieved, I and another L/C went to supports to take over and arrange accommodation for dug outs, guiding the men when they came down. Only no1 platoon has dugouts the remainder are in Cocoa trench in tank holes.

Friday 22 June 1917 – More rain today, have slept most of the day not getting to sleep last night owing to coy not getting in till dawn, then there were rations for the section to get and issue. The cooks don’t come into the trenches, so most tea comes up ready made for my section. Twelve of us – one petrol tin of tea and half a tin of water, about two pints per man altogether for the day. Tonight we moved out to trenches further back where we rest till we make an attack.

Saturday 23 June 1917 – Resting today.

Sunday 24 June 1917 – Paraded for baths, the cooks are now to prepare our meals.

Monday 25 June 1917 – Move up to the line tonight ready to attack tomorrow.

Tuesday 26 June 1917 – We marched to an assembly trench in front of the line and off the sunken road, there had been a party on digging, the trench was hardly more than a foot deep. We had had fine weather while in Grey St dugouts but just before we set of for the line a heavy storm came and of course we got wet. On Monday we were issued with 50 rounds extra ammunition, two bombs per man (my bombers had ten each to carry) NCO had four – six very lights and the majority of the men had 1 each too, extra iron rations and also rations for today, four sandbags each, the men nearly all had an extra water bottle. I had 7 water bottles (extra) for 8 men. Then in The Avenue trench our trench leading up the line, were all issued with a shovel each. Reached the assembly trench about midnight, I settled myself to wait for dawn expecting 1 or 2 hours bombardment. The artillery opened out a barrage and our first line (no1 platoon was the first wave) advanced, the second wave no2 platoon excepting my section followed at 30 yds interval, my section coming at 10 yds interval after the platoon, we were soon all mixed up owing to the shell holes and the rain had made the ground slippy. The heavy rain had stopped and then rained finely for a while and stopped.

We advanced behind the moving barrage and went beyond our objective to the remains of a trench in front, really nothing more than a line of shell holes, here we started to dig in and after about 20mins the men retired, I expect by order, it only needs a few to go back and the whole swarmed after them. At the trench our real objective (though we did not know) the whole gathered and we saw what we thought were some of the enemy, word got round the enemy were getting round us, we were not sure as the Yorks (on my right) had no covers on their helmets and when a very light went up it was very uncertain. Our officer (one of them) M Williams called for bombers, there was no response, I went to the SM of B coy (Hansell) a bomber Corporal of the ‘B’ coy and one (or two) more men, we threw a few bombs and it turned out they were really some enemy, they gave themselves up, about 16 altogether, and the Yorks were on the other side. We put the enemy in a big hole (shell) and tried to get information unsuccessfully. While I was there the officer sent me to find a Sergeant who had been wounded so that the enemy could carry him back, he was not near our nearest men so I returned to the prisoners and told the officer, just as I got back someone said ‘what about souvenirs?’ so we set too.

I got a watch from one man and another gave me 2 knives, I got 2 purses and also a closing table knife and one other knife. I asked for another watch, ‘nix oh nix comrade,’ they comprehend watch alright, then we fell them in and some chaps were detailed to take the prisoners back over. All the while the whole had been a bit confused, now the officers got them hearing and we were soon at our proper places, A &B Company on the left of the sunken road and the Yorks on the right. Here we set to, to improve the trench making a connection in one place joining shell holes on to the trench. By and by the whole of the coy got together also ‘B’ and we worked till it was light. Then we had to be more cautious as the enemy had somewhat recovered and started to snipe us, and in one place they made as though to counter attack and the Yorks gave way a little, it seemed as though the whole were going to retire, had they done so our chaps would have followed suit as everyone was at the highest nerve pitch and an attack was naturally expected however the Yorks regained control of themselves and stuck. We continued to dig in till safe here in then improved the trench. I was dog tired, at 11am a Sergeant next to me was going to keep the sentries going. I hoped to have a little sleep when word came along for Corporal Stamp, ‘Yes I’m here.’ I went to the officers who told me to get 4 bombers and go to the extreme left of our position and help ‘B’ coy who were being attacked by bombers, rather a windy strip. I got along to ‘B’ coy bombers who were on the extreme left in the trench. There had been a raid on them but it had been repulsed, just as I got there they were making a block. I thought it could be improved and also safer for the men so we shifted it back a bit and also arranged a fire control on the end of a bay which the enemy would have to come round if they again attacked. We were in one part of the trench, there in another during the day we saw several enemy coming along the trench and sniped on them. The trench run in a dip, we were on top so to an extent had control of part of the enemy but at close quarters they were on the same level as us so could not see everything.

We all expected a counter attack but nothing happened but as the day turned to night it was a great strain especially as we got several reports passed along the line such as – The enemy massing on the left – keep a sharp watch on the left, but nothing then happened and about midnight we were relieved by the Yorks, greatly to our relief. Moved out to Concrete trench.

Wednesday 27 June 1917 – In Concrete trench had one man dugouts, after getting down to sleep was awakened about 10am to get rations for the section. One of my men had hurt his foot or leg and while going to the dressing station was wounded in two places. My L/C whom I mentioned on the 13th, last night went to the battalion dressing station helping with wounded, after which he had a sleep. During the night a carrying party brought along some gas cylinders and deposited them near the dressing station (The Rookery) and about 2am this morning the enemy shelled, one shell hitting the gas cylinders, the gas escaped and part went down the dug out used as the dressing station. My L/C was killed by the gas. Tonight on a working party carrying wood for dugouts up the line, we got as far as Avenue trench, the enemy shelled the trench hard, our officer took us into a large dugout for safety, here were 2 or 3 other parties for shelter, One lot, The Yorks, had 1 man killed and 3 wounded. We dumped our wood outside and stayed in the dugout till too late to go up the line so our officer took us back to Concrete Street just on dawn.

Thurs 28 June 1917 – In this trench we have the meat cooked and sent up with rations, there being also one or two tommies cookers issued so thus we get no hot dinner from the cooks but get breakfast and tea, the cooks are a long way off and tea is very short so there is always a scramble for it. My turn to have a night off but after the parties had gone out another party was required so I fell in for it, just about 1 ½ hours work, digging a space for a dugout and making a covering bridge across a trench.

Friday 29 June 1917 – Have a night off tonight.

Saturday 30 June 1917 – On working party tonight carrying wire and then finishing digging a trench, the trench which we used as the assembly trench before attacking.

Roger’s diary continues in July 1917