March 1916

March 1916

Now in Boulogne and still being treated for the injury to his foot, Roger’s diary continues with his move to a Convalescent Camp.

Wednesday 1st March 1916 – This morning all the newcomers including me were inspected by the commanding officer, he inspected my foot. One chap who came with me here yesterday has been sent to duty today.

Thursday 2nd March 1916 – It seems I am on light duty today. I had to help with a garden and this afternoon I had opportunity to go on the rocks, I and another, the tide being out, and we explored an old fort which is surrounded when the tide is up. We got back and found the party had finished but nothing had been said about us being missing, we had worked well for the spell.

Friday 3rd March 1916 – I had a dream last night, the details which were very vague this morning but in it I had been told the war would not finish till the nations once more came to God. Today I and another had to help clean the cookhouse and utensils.

Saturday 4th March 1916 – Pay day today, I got 5 francs. I wrote a letter to the Daily Mirror, the nature of that dream and to that effect, signing myself as ‘Squire Addison.’ We had a concert here tonight. My hearing is as bad as ever.

Sunday 5th March 1916 – No fatigues today. There have been church parades for the various sects. I was in the tent waiting for the ‘fall in’ for the Wesleyan but never heard it and when I went out to enquire found I was too late. Tonight was a voluntary service, the chaplain came round to the tents inviting the men to go. In my tent he did not say what sect. I went to the service, a very simple one, like Wesleyans although I learn the Chaplain is C of E. 12 men attended out of a camp of about 700 men.

Monday 6th March 1916 – I with 5 others had to go on guard, we marched to an hotel which had been used as a hospital and been burnt down practically but the wine cellars had been saved and we had to see no one interfered with them, they were of course locked. We had a good room to sleep in and had no sentry beat to do, did 1 on, 2 off. It was the best guard I have done. We had plenty of food sent from our camp which is not far away.

Tuesday 7th March 1916 – Tonight we had a whist drive, I got 87 with the 14 hands.

Wednesday 8th March 1916 – I went to see the doctor here about my ears. I am awful deaf and it makes me miserable sometimes. the doctor examined me but could not find anything wrong.

Thursday 9th March 1916 – Had to go before the CO for special inspection and have to go to see an ear specialist. I had been mistaken about the doctor yesterday.

Friday 10th March 1916 – ‘C’ Co[mpan]y had all to parade for inspection to see if any were fit to go to the base. I have to go to the ear specialist tomorrow. I had a shave at the regimental barbers on Thursday March 2nd and my face is breaking into a rash, not very bad as yet. I don’t know if the barber is responsible.

Saturday 11th March 1916 – I and some others were taken to BOULOGNE in an RAMC car to the specialist. I had my ear syringed and some lotion put in. The specialist could not see in my ear on account of the discharge having settled in my ear.

Sunday 12th March 1916 – No specialist today. Had a Wesleyan church parade this morning, about 30 attended.

Monday 13th March 1916 – Again to BOULOGNE to have my ears tended, after being syringed an acid was put in which for a few seconds seemed to burn. We have a good while to wait so this morning I had a look round part of the dock, the place we attend for ears is on the dock. I came across a shipbuilding yard, so I made out from the notice, and thought it may be interesting to look round so I went in the doorway. An office was partitioned off with glass and inside was what I took for a naval officer, then I thought I must not be too curious, I have not a pass to be out, so if he asks for it there may be trouble for me. The officer looked up from writing but did not ask what I wanted so in a careless manner I went out and back to the specialist’s place. On Saturday when going to BOLOUGNE I saw a boat very low in the water, I did not know if there was anything the matter with it. Today going down a chap asked me where the boat was that was on the rocks and the same boat was there so expect it is a wreck.

Tuesday 14th March 1916 – This morning after having my ears treated and while waiting for the car to go back I had a stroll round and bought some apples. Coming back by the dock side I saw an airship so asked a French soldier if it was a German. ‘No! French.’ The airship came nearer and looked on a bigger scale like a squeaker pig which is blown up. ‘It looks like a pig’ said the soldier, and then he told me these airships can see a submarine under water and they fly over the STRAIGHT OF DOVER and drop bombs on the enemy submarines. I said ‘you can speak English alright.’ ‘Yes I was in England, LONDON 5 years as a child.’ I gave him an apple, I was eating one myself, and after a little chat I thought I had better be off in case my car was waiting. While on the dock I saw two ship’s apprentices enjoying themselves, rowing and putting up the sails of a small lifeboat. All my old longing for the sea came back, but I thought how wise my parents had been not to let me go for about now I should have been out of my time and as my ears are bad my training would have been spoilt.

Wednesday 15th March 1916 – Saw the specialist this morning and he gave me some drops to put in my ears instead of going down there each morning. I have to see him in a week’s time. The company was inspected by the CO, I being told to parade with the co[mpan]y and after it parade again. At first I told the CO my ears are still discharging then when the company were all inspected the SM [Sergeant Major] said I had not to go in again so I could not tell the CO about the specialist. He marked me down as unfit. ‘For ear specialists’ and tomorrow I go away from here to Base Details.

Thursday 16th March 1916 – It is a fine hot sunny day so have washed one shirt (spare one), towel and a handkerchief. Will have a bath if possible. Had a bath.

Friday 17th March 1916 – Moved yesterday to Malboro [MARLBOROUGH] Camp and am one of a tent of 11. We are allowed out here after 4.30pm so I went to BOULOGNE. While looking round I saw a Wesleyan Chapel Soldiers’ Room so I went in, a lady asked if I would like to write a letter. No, I was just passing and looked in. I showed my guild card and we talked of Sunday schools and was shown the chapel. It is a small comfortable place to hold about 100. The lady has the Sunday School and has only 5 regular attendees. Before I left she asked would I have tea on Sunday with her husband and family but that is impossible as we cannot get out till 4.30 and it is a good walk. I looked around and had a walk by the sea then back, it is all up bank going back. The town is on a hill and with walking so much as I did I was tired when I got back, we have to be in by 8.30pm. This morning I saw the doctor and told him about the specialist.

Saturday 18th March 1916 – I was on a fatigue party filling sandbags by the sea at BOULOGNE, we did not do much as the tide was nearly up and covered the sands.

Sunday 19th March 1916  – C of E service this morning. My name was called this morning to go to Destructor Barracks, I fall in at 1pm. On Friday night I went to No 5 camp to see [if] any letters had arrived and called to say goodbye to my nurse in the hospital. I gave her a half nose cap with YPRES on, which I had cut with my knife. She gave me a postcard which had just arrived, Shamrock, it being St Patrick’s day, and I have to write sometimes. Am now at the ‘destructors’. We are having splendid weather here now. Tonight I went to the Wesleyan Chapel, it was a splendid service, a chaplain officiating. The place was full, the majority soldiers, perhaps 15 civilians, with 2 nurses and 2 French soldiers. The cafes here were sweet, and confectioners shops are open. The fashion is to go there and have cakes or wines, from what I saw. Also 3 or 4 flash jewellers were open. The principal colour is mourning, very conspicuous by the long veils the women wear.

Monday 20th March 1916 – Today I had to go for medical inspection but was not wanted. Have to see the specialist on Wednesday. Tonight I went to a boxing tournament.

Tuesday 21st March 1916 – Today I was on a fatigue, wash the latrine seats and after help dig a hole to put a drain down. It rained this afternoon so we did not work.

Wednesday 22nd March 1916 – To the specialist, my ears have stopped discharging and he marked me fit. Last night was a cinema in the YMCA hut, tonight had a splendid concert with two good sketches by Miss Lena Ashwell’s party.

Thursday 23rd March 1916 – On a fatigue putting up stables, corrugated iron at the veterinary hospital and had opportunity to look round and see the horses.

Friday 24th March 1916 – On fatigue at the Base Medical Store. We had snow during the night and rain today.

Saturday 25th March 1916 – On Base Medical Store fatigue again. This dinner time, we got our dinners at the base barracks. I had a look round the docks and saw the three torpedo destroyers and five craft which looked much like a submarine. Also saw two leave boats just ready to set off.

Sunday 26th March 1916 – This morning was not on fatigue and attended C of E service. The chaplain had the service in the dining hall and put on the table a crucifix and two candles and crossed himself once during the service, so afterwards I had a little talk with him, he said he did not worship the crucifix, it was just a symbol of Christ. The candles were to brighten the service not to illuminate or to stand as a prayer. The sign of the cross, he said, is after the old Anglican church not as part of the RC church and it was just a man’s own conscience what he meant these things for. Tonight I went to the Wesleyan Chapel here, we had a splendid service as last week, the chapel being again full.

Monday 27th March 1916 – On no fatigue today. This morning I remolded my aluminium, this afternoon I with several others had to go before the medical board, I being passed fit. Tonight I went to the boxing tournament and enjoyed it and stayed till the finish. I did not know till after it was over, it was nearly 8.30. It was raining and blowing. I arrived at the Destructor about 8.45pm and had been marked absent. My overcoat was dripping.

Tuesday 28th March 1916 – Have not been warned for any fatigue but have been warned for Company Office for being absent from roll call. I had reported at the guard room when I came in. At 9am the Sergeant came for me but when at the Orderly Room he said ‘Alright, don’t let it happen again,’ so I did not get crimed, nor even see the Commanding Officer. Tonight went to a musical evening at the Wesleyan Chapel.

Wednesday 29th March 1916 – Today on Rue Constantine fatigue. I was on the Sergeants’ Mess wash up etc. and tonight I and the chap next me went to the Wesleyan Chapel service.

Thursday 30th March 1916 – On OSTROHOVE Camp fatigue and again I was picked for Sergeants’ Mess. Went to a musical evening at the Wesleyan Chapel tonight.

Friday 31st March 1916 – This morning at roll call I was told to prepare for going to the base. Had a kit inspection, all who are going to the bases. Fell in at 12 noon, paraded to the docks and at about 3pm we finally got set off. While being at the Destructor I made a good friend of the chap on my left. I liked him very much and believe he did me, we got on well together. On Tuesday we were going out together but he was warned for a fatigue. On Wednesday and Thursday we went together to the Wesleyan Chapel. I have while being moved about, struck up speaking acquaintances with my mates wherever I have been, but this chap I was sincerely sorry to leave. When he went on the parade we did not shake hands, he said he would try to get back but he did not, so we did not say goodbye. All today I have missed him much more than I have missed any of the chaps out here. We would have become chums in every sense of the word, had we been together for any time. His name is Reed of the ASC [Army Service Corps] and he belongs Chatham, he is 30 years of age. I do like him and hope to meet him again. We travelled in horse trucks, taking rations with us. Once when the train stopped I went up the line to a cottage for water to make tea and saw some Germans looking through the grating of a truck. They were prisoners. About 8pm we reached ABBEVILLE and had to change there to a fresh train and whereas we were 22 in the first truck, we were only 5 in the truck I was in. Again I saw the prisoners with their escort being changed from one train to another. Continued in little book In my last two letters from home I learn Ropners have applied for me to go back to work on munitions. Hope I get…

Roger’s diary continues with April 1916