Roger’s diary continues from his last entry in April 1916…
Monday 1st May 1916 – Have seen today an account of the Irish riots and think it disgraceful, no mercy should be shown the leaders, it is decidedly a feather in the Germans’ cap. Also seen an account of General Townsend’s surrender, he could not do otherwise and had made a good stand at KUT, but this and the Irish riots would certainly give the enemy a lot of hope and the war will, I think, last much longer through these things happening.
Tuesday 2nd May 1916 – I made some dumplings today as there was a flour issue, I was doubtful about them so prayed that they would be alright, they were too. At bedtime we had a sudden heavy short thunderstorm, the first rain since Easter Saturday. I had our blankets to air and they got wet, but it was soon over and left a beautiful clear night.
Wednesday 3rd May 1916 – Nothing special today, still the same lovely weather.
Thursday 4th May 1916 – The company parade for clothing, I got a set, this morning that was. This afternoon those who had not been inoculated within the last 12 months had to parade to hospital where our doctor, an RAMC doctor, inoculated us all, 2 chaps looked after the tea for us. Tonight, while watching a football match between our co[mpan]y and some RAMC, I felt a chill, the inoculation was working, so to bed after going for rations, the other cook who had been playing football was already in bed.
Friday 5th May 1916 – My temperature went very high during the night and the other cook moaned once or twice. This morning I managed to get up to the police on duty (we have no guard), [they] had built the fire up and had the water boiled so we only had the bacon to do, the other cook I couldn’t get up, I did not persist knowing what was the matter. I saw the Sergeant and asked for two cooks in our place, they came later on and we all, the inoculated, had 48 hours no duty, inoculations never affected me before like this time.
Saturday 6th May 1916 – Another day no duty, today my chest is swollen a little but much better than yesterday.
Sunday 7th May 1916 – Returned to duty today, the billet men are isolated as diphtheria and measles have broken out, all men confined to billets.
Monday 8th May 1916 – All men had to go in tents yesterday, there have been five or six cases for hospital so far and a couple may have to go tomorrow. Rain today.
Tuesday 9th May 1916 – The cook has returned and taken up duty today but was inoculated today so I have to restart tomorrow. Rain today, a load of straw has come and those men who want to can return to the barn. We have had an oven built outside the cookhouse and I’m told the clay out here is different from that in England. The clay out here, instead of forming one mass of substance over the oven top like the English clay, it cracks and lets heat out.
Wednesday 10th May 1916 – We are to have some sports at headquarters and the co[mpan]y ran heats today. I was in for bomb throwing but did not get a place. Tonight a platoon football match between 1 and 2 platoons. No 1 got a team up, I was on, we lost 2-0.
Thursday 11th May 1916 – Have moved to this barn. We got a new suit today issued, also new boots for those who need them, I got a pair. We paraded to the baths and also got a clean change, the baths were about midway between FLETRE and METEREN.
Friday 12th May 1916 – Co[mpan]y drill today also had potato race heats, I tried but did not get a place. I tried to get a team up of 6 for a boat race but could not. I had entered my name for the obstacle race but did not know when the heat had to be run and missed it.
Saturday 13th May 1916 – This morning had a short parade and were to march to headquarters for the sports this afternoon but rain poured down and the sports have not been held. Our 7 days’ confinement is over and two of us went to CAESTRE for a haircut and at the shop I got 4/6 English money.
Sunday 14th May 1916 – Church service today, we all except RC [Roman Catholics] paraded to headquarters and then the Wesleyans fell out. We had a service at the other side of the farmhouse from the C of E and neither service was interrupted by the other, about 15 there were of us, after the service the Lord’s Supper was celebrated in a barn, 7 chaps taking it. Had a walk through the fields to EECKE tonight.
Monday 15th May 1916 – Today the co[mpan]y paraded just 50 men of ‘A’, I am RE [Royal Engineers] fatigue, I am on. We marched to CAESTRE and there met motor lorries and were conveyed to BAILLEUL where we had to help with a siding that was being made. The officer paid for us coffee and after for dinner. We started at 9am, an hour for dinner and finished at 4.15pm then back to the lorries.
Tuesday 16th May 1916 – Morning parade, finished up with bayonet drill. Tonight had a walk to EECKE, on to L’HAZEWINDE and back to CAESTRE. Before reaching CAESTRE I went in a cottage for some coffee and eggs and noticed the walls were decorated with oil paintings and had no difficulty in recognising the only three of the household I saw, a young woman, an old lady and old gentleman. I asked if the young lady painted them, received a polite ‘no’; the old lady when pressed, I recognised two portraits of her, did not seem to want to discuss them so I did not press the subject. I think one of the household had painted them. I begged a flower from the garden as a souvenir and was given a pansy, I’ve pressed it. All beer is stopped as given out and tonight orders that is not to be a roll [roll call?].
Wednesday 17th March 1916 – Paraded to baths this morning and this afternoon to the sports, I was in the boat race and sack fight, my team for the boat race were in the final but we came third out of four, got no prize, neither a place in the sack fight final. The sports to be continued on the 24th.
Thursday 18th May 1916 – Again on working party going to BAILLEUL, the same as Monday, in village, it has been another splendid day. Today we had to dig a place for a drain, I was one of the party who had to put the earth which came from the holes onto trucks and put on a light railway. The only thing really different was that today’s officer did not stand us coffee and bread. I had my dinner, two eggs, two rolls buerre [butter] and two glasses of wine, this cost 9d altogether. After tea, I had a bit of cake out of a chap’s parcel, some issue pickles and bread and butter (I did not bother about the stew.) I was getting washed when the Orderly Sergeant shouted to me, I did not hear but a chap near repeated, it was, ‘what is given destination?’ Oh joy! ‘Stockton-on-Tees’ I replied. I’m to go on leave, pay tonight but I did not get any. I’m to go up to the Captain tomorrow for him to reckon my book up. A chap has just been in to ask for a pair of trousers off me, he had gone in a pond while stopping a football and battalion is playing the 20th Durhams, I had my new pair extra so changed and give him my old trousers, he only wore them till his own pair got dry, I have told him to keep them. I’m off to see Jack Andrews now, I’ve promised to take a souvenir for him, this is to repay him for sending my letter for me while I was in hospital.
Friday 19th May 1916 – Had a bit of a restless night through excitement and was awake before reveille, I was chuffed this morning on account of my journey, I had been so glad. Had parade and battalion drill. I was to take a parcel home for my Lieutenant but another chap who belongs his place, DARLINGTON, is going to take it, has had the parcel; the Lieutenant Robinson wanted to give me five francs but I only took three and he would not take the money back after the other chap got the parcel. The co[mpan]y Quartermaster would only give me 60 francs and I’ve got thirty changed in English, altogether with what I had having 34 shillings [£1.70]. I’ve been sorting my things out, am leaving my cape, steel helmet and ammunition behind, the latter is compulsory, the boys are looking after them. It’s the boys who have got me most of the English money, I got 10 shillings and sixpence from one chap just back off leave. I can not find my bullet which was taken out of me, I’ve only missed it today. I’m off to report at headquarters, I have not yet seen J. Andrews. A parcel came so we had a little tea party. I’m glad it came while I was here for had it come after I left the lads stood little chance of getting it, the Quartermaster checks them, if he wants they are easily denied if no one sees the parcel and the parcel has been ‘lost’ whereas now I shared it out myself. After tea I found J. Andrews and have got his souvenirs. Have brought my kit to headquarters (battalion) and have had a walk to ‘C’ co[mpan]y to see C Gooding if he wanted anything doing; he walked back with me and gave me his address to call. I don’t feel like sleep, have got my warrant laid down on some straw. I think it would be 2am…
Saturday 20th May 1916 – before I got to sleep and awakened after dreaming I had been left behind and missed the train. I asked what time it was of another leave man who was up, the time was 4am, no more sleep so had a wash and put a new shirt on which I got from the Quartermaster last night. I’ve been writing as the train moved but now have just stopped at HAZEBROUCK. H Wilkes, the other chap from ‘A’ co[mpan]y who is going on leave also and I had a walk in CAESTRE to get some coffee. After putting our kit in the station, we fell in with the other leave lads and all had coffee together, (we’ve just had to shift further along our train.) Back to CAESTRE starting from the coffee shop to wait for the leave train, it came and we were off about 5.50am. it is a fine morning, I feel as though I used to at getting midsummer holidays from school, no – better. I’m too full of excitement to think steadily of my programme, I can just do what calls but am determined not to spoil my holiday by rushing about. I did not read my warrant till this morning and find I am on furlough from May 20th, reporting at LONDON May 28th.
So here’s wishing myself a good time in Blighty. We, the batch from our battalion are all going to stick together till we get to LONDON and our officer, it is Captain Hill of my co[mpan]y, has told us he will see us across LONDON from one station to the other. Hill has been on furlough before. Arrived in BRALYNE after 11am and marched direct to the docks where we were inspected to see if we had any ammunition and occasional ones were picked out and had to empty their packs, even nose caps were not allowed to be taken.
We set off just after 12.30 and arrived in FOLKESTONE at 2.05, before getting well away I saw a boat in front of us –I think it was a cruiser and am certain a cruiser followed at the rear, we four coming in diamond formation, the sea was very calm. I saw the masts and top of the funnel of a small boat which had been sunk there, how I don’t know. Had some tea and bread at the free buffet on the platform here and now are waiting in the train to go from FOLKESTONE. It was 3pm when we left, arrived in Victoria about 5.40pm, changed my French money on the platform, I got £1.1 shilling for 30 francs, then had tea at the free buffet and afterwards sent a telegram. We, I and another chap, had to go just about 100 yards to the post office just by the station, so we came back and asked a guide in khaki the way to King’s Cross, our station to go North, he took us to the tube and put us on a train, the Turnham Circle route, and after passing about 8 stations we came to King’s Cross, travelling free. On getting out a guide showed us which way to go and on coming up at King’s Cross asked another guide about trains. This was about 6.15pm and we had missed a train about 6pm but I found later that no one had caught it, at least no soldiers got out at STOCKTON. This guide handed us over to a Jenny lady [‘Jenny Wren’, the nickname for members of the Women’s Royal Naval Service] who took us to E Roberts rest house [Earl Roberts Rest House for Travelling Servicemen]. Here we had a wash, had a walk going along Euston Road and seeing a few stalls on a street off it, called for our sandwiches and kit and caught the 8.45pm reaching York about 1.30am.
Sunday 21st May 1916 – Here I changed with others to catch the 4am to Stockton, while watching I saw YORK station clock put on for one hour in accordance with the daylight saving bill. At 5am (the new time) our train moved and just after six landed at STOCKTON and found Mother and Glen waiting, Dad being ill in bed. Mother, Annie, Aunt Louise Cotterill had all waited for the previous train. I did not go to bed, this afternoon went to S[unday] School and with talking I missed Chapel but met it coming out, later on going to another service. Taylors this afternoon, I went to Meggie’s after S[unday] School.
Monday 22nd May 1916 – Morning to Kelso’s, to a house for J Hughes, afternoon to have my photo taken and to the shipyard but I was not allowed in. Last night was at Golightly’s to supper.
To Shields’ and to the tennis field North Terrace, to Aunt Louise afternoon.
Tuesday 23rd May 1916 – Morning to park and Hartburn, afternoon to Tate’s, Finches (not in), to C Gooding’s mother, night J Smith’s and Meggie’s, to Hippodrome with Mother, Annie and Meggie. This afternoon I took my watch to Richardson’s also some aluminium to mend it.
Wednesday 24th May 1916 – Morning in the market, to Joplins. I did not like the proof photo so was taken again. Afternoon tea at Taylors (auntie), called at Humbles, Greens, and to see the Burney kiddies, to Squire Stamp and tonight Empire Middlesbrough with Meggie and Nora.
Thursday 25th May 1916 – Visit to Cruddas and Readheads, to the Cummings this afternoon, tonight at Greens for supper.
Friday 26th May 1916 – [Indecipherable].
Saturday 27th May 1916 – To Richardson’s. To the station to see about trains, then to Norton visiting Mr and Mrs Court, to Browns (not in) and to Aunt Linie [Lizzie?] Taylors.
Sunday 28th May 1916 – Went to chapel this morning, this afternoon to Stanley and the Nelsons. Caught the 6.21pm to DARLINGTON and am now waiting in DARLINGTON station for the 8.09pm to King’s Cross. I naturally feel sorry it is over, my leave, but I have had it, should I get another I will, if in the same mind, spend more time at home. Left DARLINGTON 8.09pm, arrived at YORK and reached King’s Cross at 3.30am.
Monday 29th May 1916 – I slept most of the journey. The stations were not open and I went out and found a YMCA just outside the station. A guide has arrived to convey soldiers to Victoria Station so I went arriving about 4.15am. I had a breakfast at the free buffet, put my rifle and kit in the luggage office and had a walk seeing Houses of Parliament, Westminster Bridge, Abbey and Cathedral, part of the embankment and Buckingham Palace. The Brit train was timed to leave at 7.30, we reached FOLKESTONE at 10am, straight onto the boat getting across by 12.30 having a nice trip across lasting 1½ hours, the other hour being taken up by waiting. Marched to OSTROHOVE camp in BOULOGNE, I don’t know how long for. I do feel ‘a bit off’ leaving home, the time has passed so quick, I wish the war was over. I’ve read the 1 Chronicles 18 & 19th chapters and see how good God was to David and hope he would be with me as much, then all would be well. Stayed at OSTROHOVE all night and issued with bread for breakfast.
Tuesday 30th May 1916 – I with some others, told off to clean the [place] up, it only ran to 7 tents each and afterwards we were given a pass out. I went to BOULOGNE and bought a coat of arms, china, for Mother and a little knife for Annie. Fell in at the camp at 5.30, detailed in divisions, marched to the station after being given a paper to say we had been delayed. The train set off about 7.30, at HAZEBROUCK someone shouted from the platform ‘50 Division go to STEENWERCK’ and we had to change to the front of the train. Arrived at STEENWERCK about 11pm to find we should have got out at BAILLEUL, had to sleep on the platform for the night.
Wednesday 31st May 1916 – At 7am we were directed the road to take and set off about 17 of us. At BAILLEUL I inquired at the signal office where our battalion was, they are at KEMMEL shelters. We reached there at 11am having had a lift on a motor lorry a good part of the way.
Roger’s diary continues with June 1916…