Roger’s diary continues on from February 1917…
Monday 5 March 1917 – This morning, March 5th 1917 was surprised on getting up to find a cover of snow.
Tuesday 6 March 1917 – The sun has been out strong today, the snow is practically all away though the roads are dirty.
Wednesday 7 March 1917 – A good day today.
Thursday 8 March 1917 – Today for the first time in my army life was issued with a tin of 20 sardines between 4 men, also for the second time half an orange per man instead of jam.
Friday 9 March 1917 – We moved today to MERICOURT-SUR-SOMME, the other MERICOURT near RIBECOURT was MERICOURT-L’ABBE.
Saturday 10 March 1917 – We orderlies are working 4 reliefs, I am on tonight.
Sunday 11 March 1917 – There was a church parade this morning but I was not ready in time having just come off duty about 7.45am, and had to clean up and shave, also undo my equipment but tonight I went to a service at CHUIGNOLLES 3.5km away. It was a nice service, hearty singing and a band played the tunes, the church army hut was comfortably full when about half way through the service a thought came to me, casually or prompted I don’t know, but I thought of my cap badge, how easily it could be pulled out from my cap, it was just at my side but I thought directly afterwards what an unworthy thought and in a place like this, so I refused to look and see if my cap badge was safe but after the service was over the cap badge was gone. I asked the chap who sat behind me if he had seen it, he said no and although I looked I could not find it. I cannot swear I had it in when I went into the service but I think I would have missed it before if I had got it.
Monday 12 March 1917 – I went to the battalion this morning and got a cap badge off the QM [Quartermaster] for asking. The battalion is just past MERICOURT; afterwards I went nearly to BERISY, crossed the marshes and back home by the Somme canal bank. On duty 3.30pm to 8.30pm.
Tuesday 13 March 1917 – Had a good walk along the canal bank. On duty 11.30am till 3.30pm, had another walk along the canal, there is a dock a little way up stream and I have seen the bargees working with their barges through the lock.
Wednesday 14 March 1917 – On duty 7.30 to 11.30am. This afternoon the divisional gas officer instructed us about the new respirators which have just lately been issued and we were put in a hut filled with gas to test our respirators. Tonight I intended to have a swim in the canal, I jumped in but it was very cold so was practically straight out so I bathed at the stream which takes the overflow from the canal. On duty 8.30 till 11.30pm. My workmate is staying on all night.
Thursday 15 March 1917 – Went to ETINEHEM tonight, there is nothing special there which I know of. I went to the Boulangers but they would not sell me any bread saying it was only for civilians.
Friday 16 March 1917 – On duty 3.30pm to 8.30pm, the company including myself have been inoculated tonight, we have had sardines now 4 times and once more half an orange. Once a loaf between 2, then a loaf between 4, then between 5 and tonight between 3.
Saturday 17 March 1917 – Feeling a bit sick and have been back to the hut after breakfast till 11.15am, going on duty 11.30am. The inoculation has made a few sick, some more severe than the others.
Sunday 18 March 1917 – Duty at 7.30am to 11.30am and alright, tonight again went to the service at CHUIGNOLLES, the church army hut was full, the band again in attendance.
Monday 19 March 1917 – After breakfast went to FROISSY along the canal bank, only a few houses and a lock on the canal. I went by road to BRAY-SUR-SOMME, there is a decent sized church but I did not go in, I tried to get some bread but could not, but I managed to buy some of my favourite dates, then off back home, dinner and afterwards rifle inspection. The dates cost about 1 franc a pound judging for what I got for half a pound.
Tuesday 20 March 1917 – The weather is fairly good; we have an occasional shower now and again.
Wednesday 21 March 1917 – I went to PROYART this morning, got some biscuits at the E.F. [Expeditionary Force] canteen and some muscatels at the shop, 1 franc for what are half pound packet.
Thursday 22 March 1917 – This morning on awakening found a thin cover of snow, the sun has come out and it will soon be melted away, Yesterday I priced a tin of condensed milk, what would cost in England before the war 7½ d, the price in PROYART was 2 francs 4 pence or 2/-. The price of articles is of course raised to the English soldier, as some of the shopkeepers say ‘Anglaise tommee plentee money’.
Saturday 24 March 1917 – Tonight at 11pm the clocks will be advanced 1hr and so starts summer time.
Sunday 25 March 1917 – Earlier in the week two orderlies were sent to the Corps pigeon loft for duty, so now instead of 4 we have 3 reliefs again. I’ve been able to attend the service at CHUIGNOLLES, and going on duty all night. Tonight will write home asking Mother and Dad permission to go back to my battalion to work for a commission. I received news that J.Redhead has lost his right arm, and Mother entreated me to keep out of the firing line.
Monday 26 March 1917 – One blanket to be given in today, our leather jerkins have also been given in.
Wednesday 28 March 1917 – It is lovely to walk along the Somme canal banks, the canal runs alongside the Chateau gardens where the HQs are, there is a terrible lot of waste ground on each side of the canal growing nothing but long coarse grass and a few trees. The canal has locks at some places, one quite near to us, another at FROISSEY and instead of the water being drained off the land, when the locks are shut the water in the canal gets higher than the surrounding ground, the result is that the streams that drain ordinarily into the canal get the overflow and they swamp the land. The canal in my opinion should have been made deeper at the first when being made; it would of then have been a drain for the country, and shall be deep enough for the barges and to be worked by locks. The land is very chalky in some places so here the land would not be cultivated. There is a lot of chalk in this district, wherever there had been any digging there is always signs of chalk and when up at BAZENTIN and MAMETZ, the old trenches could be seen from a good distance, with chalk on the brown and green background of the earth. Here on the SOMME the picture presented to the eye in lots of places is water with big and little islands, in some places rather pretty, but I fancy in the summer when the sun gets on the standing water it will be stagnant and unhealthy.
Thursday 29 March 1917 – I must note this; here at the Chateau where the HQs are, in the grounds are lots of huts – billets and offices which were occupied previously by the French, each hut has been with great care painted to represent the ground, so to escape observations by enemy aircraft. The huts put up by the English are sometimes so disguised but more often the covers are green or the tarpaulin left black. The speciality about the French huts is that the doors have been painted inside so when open they don’t show a rectangle of white wood.
Friday 30 March 1917 – The horse lines and part of the office moved today. I was detailed off to go and after getting up at 4.30am, packing up and getting my kit on the transport I was informed not to go today.
Saturday 31 March 1917 – Marched today with the rear party, our blankets and valise carried in the motor lorry, the men cycling. The route was along the canal to CORBIE; sometimes we could not ride, others was nice riding while the last few kilometres to CORBIE was splendid. At CORBIE we went to a tea shop, had 2 fried eggs with a cup of tea, 2 pieces small of bread and butter, 1½ francs. Another cup of tea and 2 pieces of bread was 4d so the eggs evidently were 5½d each. We set off from MERICOURT-SUR-SOMME at 11.30am arrived at CORBIE 1.15pm. A church army refreshment room opened at 2.30pm, we left our cycles here at 2.10pm, I went and had a look round the church which was like all the churches here, very pretty. That was the only thing I could see worth looking at. I returned to church army and had some biscuits and at 3pm set off for MOLLIENS-AU-BOIS via ST GRATIEN, nothing of note, just small villages; the road was away from the canal and more or less banks all the way. We were all pretty done up, it was walk up the banks and ride down. When we arrived at MOLLIENS-AU-BOIS tea was ready about 6.30pm, biscuits only, no jam or cheese with tea to drink of course. Last night we also had biscuits for tea and only 1 slice of bread per man for breakfast, nothing issued for dinner. After tea I was warned for night duty to go on at 9pm which was very vexing as I like the others who had cycled was very tired. It was estimated about a 20 mile ride, the distance today, also there were 2 reliefs of the orderlies who came yesterday and I believe the signal was not taking our toll today so there would be no night duty to do. Further I was on duty this morning before my turn, an extra turn that is owing to the morning. Anyway there was no help for it only to go on 3 of us, all 3 had been travelling today, the other 2 were on a motor lorry having the last 6km to walk. Only one man was needed to stop on all night so we drew for it, fortunately for me I had not to stop on all night finishing at 11.30pm.