November 1915

November 1915

The start of November finds our hero still around Armentieres…

Monday 1st November 1915 – Running parade is all we have done today. Sent Mother a silk scarf and card hoping they will arrive in time for Nov 5th. Moved to trenches tonight, it was raining to go up with.

Tuesday 2nd November 1915 – Rained all day today. I went out at the night, nothing but blackness, a few trees showed up and along the line two star lights just going down about a mile away. What a picture.

Wednesday 3rd November 1915 – Still raining at ‘stand to’ but it faired up at intervals during the day. This morning we had to clean up at a bomb store which had fallen in and the same on the afternoon and two to do on the night. Our officer said if we had been shelled the trenches could not be worse, this had given [in] in so many places.

Thursday 4th November 1915 – Had to clean up three other stores which had given in.

Friday 5th November 1915 – Tonight was a beautiful sunset, several stopped while on the way for work to gaze on it. The sky was clear blue, white feather clouds – deep red. The sun and the mixture caused by them both was a deep salmon pink. Mother’s birthday! Gun powder plot! I was on ration fatigue for the bombers, we get our rations separate. While on the way to the dump had once to lay flat on the rails to get clear of a machine gun, further on a little attack was I believe made. Lights went up and then guns were on each wing so I got behind an old house, out of the way. I had gone down early so not to wait for the company but they were last to come up, our transport. I had about three hours’ wait. Twice on the dump I had to take over for there were little affairs of changing bullets and the artillery helped. Once or twice coloured lights were included with the star lights, the artillery on each side flashing lights across the sky when they fired and a few stars shot across the sky so we had plenty of fireworks.

Saturday 6th November 1915 – Today the whole bombers platoon had to take the Pull grenades to the dump as they had been called in and had to bring Mills egg bombs to fill up the places.

Sunday 7th November 1915 – Had to clean up the trenches. Were relieved in the night. Our section bombers were in support, the company in the fire trench, so when the relieving party came in we moved out without the company, getting out much sharper, and I was able to get in to the Wesleyan service as the preacher was nearly finished. Heard a solo ‘When peace like a river.’ Stayed till the finish of the after meeting.

Monday 8th November 1915 – Baths today. Tonight joined in the queue for the pictures but when about 100 from the door, the doors were shut, full up. I went round to the back and had a look in the stage door and found my way to the back of the stage. Although the pictures were not clear I could see them so after a while I went out to the ordinary door, the few who had waited about having gone. I knocked and managed to get in. There were sufficient to fill three halls with the quantity who went to get in the only one. We had our fur coats issued just before going up and orders to again give them in.

Tuesday 9th November 1915 – Expected to go to the school, all of us to front line bombs, but have not moved to the trenches tonight. I hear that some of our men, just a couple or so, had to go to hospital with chilled feet this time out. I don’t wonder for the men in the firing line were practically always walking in water, in fact some got that wet they stopped trying to keep dry, took their socks off and waded through the water when going along the trench.

Wednesday 10th November 1915 – The trenches again. We, two of us, were put in a very small dugout so this morning had a look round and found a good one. Had to parade under our bombers Lieutenant but it came in raining, we had to go back to our dugouts. It has rained since and is very cold 10.30am. On Tuesday I had a look round another church, this had 7 altars and, with the exception of two for books, they were better than those I saw in the other church. There was also a splendid baptism font.

Thursday 11th November 1915 – Had to clean out a bomb store today, Thursday, and moved out tonight to some fresh schools.

Friday 12th November 1915 – Set off in separate companies for our “Rest”, it rained all the way so heavily that our capes were wet through. Our packs went by transport. We had a break in the journey for a drink of tea, then after passing through BAILLEUL we reached our billets. Later stew was served. Our billet was damp and cart horses had to leave us manure in the one we got. Got some coffee and bread at the farm house, beer also was to be had. After, a blanket each issued and I made a bed just ready to lie down when was called up on guard along with the Bombers [Captain?] and two other bombers. We could not grumble, this being the first guard since coming back from hospital, the bombers had not to do it yesterday. Rained part of the night.

Saturday 13th November 1915 – We returned off guard at reveille this morning. Paraded the company for rifle and bayonet inspection and a little drill. We marched about 10 miles yesterday being nearly three kilometres out of BAILLEUL. Today an order was passed up the line by TC Captain (Hill)… [indecipherable] … so called.. 5-6pm out to 6.30am. Rather hard I think as we are not going away from BAILLEUL when going… to billett.

Sunday 14th November 1915 – No Wesleyan parade, so attended C. of E. Today I and [?] went to a cottage for dinner, we ordered it last night, had soup with greens in, meat and potatoes, pears baked, bread and butter and coffee for 1F each. Went to BAILLEUL tonight.

Monday 15th November 1915 – Reveille 6.30 and parade 7am and running till 7.45 and at 9am for marching, again drill and co[mpan]y training and such till 12.30pm and 2 to 3. After drill again to BAILLEUL.

Tuesday 16th November 1915 – Same as yesterday, again we are at the cottage for dinner now. Were not successful in getting meat and potatoes. To BAILLEUL and in the Soldiers’ Room wrote a letter home also [put] my name in the visitors’ book. [?] this afternoon.

Wednesday 17th November 1915 – Usual duties but this afternoon we had a battalion alarm and we fell in, full packs, which was unfortunate enough, to the extent of taking packs off. After finishing 1.30pm we had a little co[mpan]y drill. After breakfast we had twice to take cover from the rain and after falling in with capes it came to being the march was cancelled. Last night we bought some sausage [?] and bread and are going to take it to the cottage for cooking. Have been to the cottage, the sausages were like leather but had some splendid potatoes with bread and butter. Today a church’s bells have been ringing all day, guns have been going off also, sending shells across and we had the rumour that the French have taken LILLE.

Thursday 18th November 1915 – Routine as usual.

Friday 19th November 1915 – Inspection by the Brigadier and route march after.

Saturday 20th November 1915 – Usual routine.

Sunday 21st November 1915 – Had a towel of cold water on my face, it is swelled so have not been on parade although did not go sick. The co[mpan]y paraded and got new shirts, everyone I think. I am the only one now without.

Monday 22nd November 1915 – Paraded sick today, got four pills and medical duty but did not go on parade. The signature of today’s pay is this [time] up Lieut[enant] Contington; today is Monday.

Tuesday 23rd November 1915 – Was on orderly duty, the battalion had a route march and with the brigade had a march past, Gen[eral] Plumer taking the salute, and at 8pm there was a battalion alarm. Room orderly made [?].

Wednesday 24th November 1915 – The bombers paraded today, had to dig a trench for practice…

Sing me to sleep where bullets fall
Let me forget the world and all
Damp is my dug out, cold my feet
Nothing but biscuits and bully to eat
Sing me to sleep where bombs explode
And shrapnel shells are a la mode.
Over the sandbag helmets you’ll find
Corpses in front of you, corpses behind.

Far far from Ypres I long to be
Where German snipers can’t get at me.
Think of me crouching where the worms creep
Waiting for sergeant to sing me to sleep.

Sing me to sleep in some old shed
Where rats are running around my head.
Stretched out upon my waterproof
Dodging the raindrops through the roof.
Sing me to sleep where camp fires glow
Full of French bread and coffee au lait
Dreaming of home, tonight in the west
Somebody’s oversized boots on my chest.

Far far from ‘Plug St’ I long to be
Lights of old Stockton I’d rather see
Think of me crouching where the worms creep
Waiting for sergeant to sing me to sleep.

Another popular parody out here, to the tune of ‘Sing me to sleep’.

Thursday 25th November 1915 – Today the battalion had route march, all details attending. Tonight it is raining and just now the boys are singing. At home there will be the annual meeting [of] teachers. Today I have had pointed out to me in Saturday 20 Nov issue of John Bull a notice called ‘a crying shame.’ It is about green envelopes being stopped and no notice of same being given to the troops, the letters being destroyed at Base. I’ve cut the piece out, should this be true it is a shame. I sent the letter to Tom and the Bradburys each with a card, and my last two to E. Green, all in green envelopes. Today it has snowed twice leaving a light layer. We were dismissed from parade this morning through it but had an afternoon parade. Tonight we had in our billet a concert by our own men and officers, for the battalion, a piano and proper platform being brought earlier on in the day.

Thursday 25th November 1915 – Today the battalion had route march, all details attending. Tonight it is raining and just now the boys are singing. At home there will be the annual meeting [of] teachers. Today I have had pointed out to me in Saturday 20 Nov issue of John Bull a notice called ‘a crying shame.’ It is about green envelopes being stopped and no notice of same being given to the troops, the letters being destroyed at Base. I’ve cut the piece out, should this be true it is a shame. I sent the letter to Tom and the Bradburys each with a card, and my last two to E. Green, all in green envelopes. Today it has snowed twice leaving a light layer. We were dismissed from parade this morning through it but had an afternoon parade. Tonight we had in our billet a concert by our own men and officers, for the battalion, a piano and proper platform being brought earlier on in the day.

Saturday 27th November 1915 – Had bombing practice today. I heard that along with 11 others my name had gone in as recommended for leave, but don’t know when I will be going.

Sunday 28th November 1915 – We had two light layers of snow yesterday. We had a Wesleyan service this morning about 10 attended and had service in a stone barn amongst the straw. Went, two of us, for dinner to the village but had no pears this time.

Monday 29th November 1915 – No bombing this morning.

Tuesday 30th November 1915 – Practised with Pull bombs this morning. This afternoon I saw batches of birds, they were too far away to distinguish them, but I have never seen so many together before, they were gathered to migrate I think.

Roger’s diary continues with his December entries