The War Diaries of Roger Stamp: September 1915

The War Diaries of Roger Stamp: September 1915

Roger’s diary continues on from August with him still in the area of Armentieres…

Wednesday 1st September 1915 – Platoon is inlying piquet today, the co[mpan]y have to go digging tonight. We went in two parties, the party I was in had to come back as the goods we had to carry had not turned up.

Thursday 2nd September 1915 – It is raining tonight, the party who came back last night had to go out tonight, it rained all the while but we still had to go to dig, getting back about 12 midnight.

Friday 3rd September 1915 – Letter to mother today. It has rained fairly heavy for about 24 hours now, the trenches will no doubt be awful, we go up tonight. On orders today was the following – A German spy has been in our lines passing as an artillery observer, anyone catching him will get £5 and 4 weeks leave. Some of the lads think this is not true, just getting us to be more particular while on duty. On orders, the value of 5 Francs during August is 3/9, during September 3/8. Moved up tonight, as I thought the trenches were awful but I got in a good dry dug out. I was temporarily put in charge of one guard, ‘A’ coy was in support with a guard at one end. I was soon relieved by a L/Corp. I went to sleep just after ten pm and woke up at 2pm.

Saturday 4th September 1915 – At 3pm had to go on digging fatigue till 6.30pm. Stand to 7pm.

Sunday 5th September 1915 – Stand to at 3.30am, digging fatigue 8 to 12am, 2 to 5pm.

Monday 6th September 1915 – Work the same as yesterday.

Tuesday 7th September 1915 – The same. The bombers of ‘A’ coy have been divided in to two parties, I am second of all and taking the left party and have put Atkinson over the right party. Today instead of digging we both had to get acquainted with army communication trench so as to know exactly where to take the men in case of attack at various places. The digging parties have not to do anything, only the stand to.

Wednesday 8th September 1915 – Atkinson and I today had to put some fuses and detonators in some new bombs, again being off duty. Last night about 4 NCOs and 16 men came up to the trenches, all having come from England. They had been wounded and volunteered to come out again but not all those who had been wounded had come out and I don’t blame them for not doing so.

Thursday 9th September 1915 – There are some good books mentioned in ‘The difficulty of today’s preachers’ in the June or July issue of the Wesleyan magazine. This afternoon had to rejoin the working party.

Friday 10th, Saturday 11th, Sunday 12th – digging fatigue. On Saturday I lighted the fire, we happened to be working near our dug out so instead of having a spell I lit the fire and while doing so the Corporal saw us and at the same time the Sergeant came to relieve us for dinner. After finishing work at 5.30 the same night the Corporal told me I would be up at Company office. I attended there this morning but the charge was not brought up but may be later. Sunday night relieved from trenches and are now in schools.

Monday 13th September 1915 – Was brought up this morning before Captain Raimes and sent to battalion office where the case was dismissed by the acting Colonel on account of my good character (I think). Had a bath and change of shirts and socks.

Tuesday 14th September 1915 – Got a new suit of clothes today and also inspected by the Brigadier.

Wednesday 15th September 1915 – The breakfast was at 5.30am, the company having to go on digging fatigue; the bombardiers were exempt, and our parade was at 7am for physical drill and bomb throwing at 9.30am.  In the night another party went digging, I was one.

Thursday 16th September 1915 – After breakfast paraded full pack for an inspection by the General. Before breakfast had a roll call. There were 14 bombers for ‘A’ co[mpan]y but only must be 10, one of the other companies only had 6. Yesterday we were asked if any wanted to return to the company and no one volunteered so we all had to throw ten out, putting down how many got in the trench. I was first, being first on the list to throw and after throwing the ten bombs had to gather them for the next man. I fired 8 bombs in the trench, I don’t know if any got more. This morning the men were told who had to return to the company, I was not one which I was very glad. The chosen have broken from their own companies, 8 made up the strength.  Tonight another party is going out digging, a bit over much, I think it can hardly be called a rest. I am just on tonight’s list but know one who has been on each fatigue.

Friday 17th September 1915 – Bombers paraded to school practice ground for firing. No. 1 first shot 2, one dropped just short and the other alright. Several of the chaps did not manage to throw the bombs the full distance. See today’s letter. Tonight there was a service each for the RC and C of E. We have again to go up tomorrow night, in fact this is the first time we have had services at the time of going up …  of course the usual services continue. I attended [the] Wesleyans and at the start of the service the Minister gave out milk and malt tablets, condensed milk and such like. I was given a tin of milk between another and myself. We sang Abide with me, Lead kindly light and Sun of my soul. I felt when singing Lead kindly light as though we were on the brink of something great happening, unexplainable, and although I have sung that hymn many a time it never had the meaning I saw when singing tonight. It was champion meeting, about 30-35 of the 5th Durham and 4th Yorks (E. Yorks) attended. Today saw a couple of Belgian soldiers’ funeral.

Saturday 18th September 1915 – Did usual… parade then after breakfast the practice at the Asylum, and at 1pm we have a lecture after which I hope to get to the… factory having got a pass from our Lieutenant. Then thought we go… [indecipherable] tomorrow and place the bomb throwers up to the trenches tonight.

Sunday 19th September 1915 – In the trenches. ‘A’ Co[mpan]y is in the firing line, the C.T. [Communication Trench] have to do sentries as ordinary men.

Monday 20th September 1915 – It was really cold and before breakfast we felt the cold in the night. The last time… [indecipherable].  Our bread ration yesterday was a loaf between 5, just a slice each and today it is only a shade better.

Tuesday 21st September 1915 – Last night Corporal Lake who had been to the Grenadiers school returned and is now the NCO over ‘A’ Co[mpan]y promotion.

Wednesday 22nd September 1915 – No mail has arrived today, I don’t know why and someone has stolen our bacon ration, what there was of it, so we got none. We are having splendid days, lovely weather apart from the chill at dawn. Last four nights while being in the moon has been shining, the nights are grand. I remarked last night ‘What nights, if I were at home I would be off for a long walk.’

Thursday 23rd 1915 – A fine day but at night it rained heavy and half of the company were out digging, improving a ditch in front of the trench, leaving only half the usual guard. It is miserable when it rains, how glad I’ll be to get back home. This time in we have rather over much share for our men for when the working party have been told off it only leaves 5 men for every 2 bays, one man has to be in each bay looking out while another has to sleep on the step which means instead of 1 on and 2 off it works out to be 2 on and 3 off and only 1 man being in the dug out at once, so we take turns. The dug outs do not face the front line, had they done so we could have spent one hour off in the dug out.

Friday 24th September 1915 – Some of the days we have to do an hour’s work on the sandbags – improving trenches etc. This morning parties had to go for straw. I learn there is to be a false attack tonight at our part of the line but a genuine one at others. In yesterday’s letter from home was Albert’s letter – a cutting from the papers. Dad told me Albert was vexed about it being reprinted.

Saturday 25th September 1915 – Yesterday parties had to carry straw to the rear of the firing line and after ‘stand to’ we had to get it and throw it in front of the parapet where detailed men placed it in piles. No one was allowed in the dug outs last night, all having to sleep on the fire step. The mail and rations were given out as soon as they came up. I had a lovely parcel in which was fruit loaf, short cakes, letter and sweets from mother, 1lb ham from Dad, tin of lobster from Tom, some sweets from Aunt Ada and chocolate and 100 cigarettes with patent lighter from cousin… . We stood to at 3am and at 4am the straw was lighted, this was to give the appearance of gas, on our right the rifles started and very soon the artillery on both sides came out strong. Men had been detailed for sentry duty, the remainder going in the shell trenches. The left squad of bombers, 4 others and myself as senior, also had to go in the shell trench near the bomb store. After being in a while and not having seen anyone else in the shell trenches I went out and found the majority of the men in the firing line so took the responsibility on taking my party there also. We had not been in long when Captain Hill who had given us orders to go in it first, came along and wanted to know why we had come out. I told him but he sent us back and after being in a long time the other 4 came out. Thinking so I came also, we had just got out when Hill again came along and again sent us back, and very shortly Lake came along and said from Captain Raimes if we did not stay in then coming out we would all be crimed and when the order did come it was about 7am. Very fortunately no shells were aimed at the front of the line. All the while this was going on it was drizzling of rain. Sentry was posted and others told off for relief for the day as usual. We heard two versions of the attack, both that three lines of the trenches had been taken, one saying 150yds frontage and the other 750yds frontage. It seems as though the enemy will either have to counter attack or retire in front of us so tonight a sharp look out must be kept. Now at 5.30pm it is raining, it has been on and off all day.

Sunday 26th September 1915 – A counter attack was expected this morning but the enemy did not. The numbers current but not official for yesterday morning’s attack are the French took 7000 prisoners, some machine guns, 2 big guns, and the English took 2000 prisoners, also that the French Cavalry had reached the German frontier and the English Cavalry were riding hard for it. Of course a very strict watch had to be kept, the sentry not allowed to get down, but keep looking out all the while.

Monday 27th September 1915 – A better day today, Monday 27th. This morning an attack had to take place on our left by the Northumbrians, no bombardment to take place. I have not heard if it was carried out or if successful. I was on sentry from 3 to 4am and stand to followed but during this time I heard nothing, but on the right things were very active attacking I think. This afternoon 3 shells were put just by our traverse by the enemy but no one was hurt. I want now before I forget to put in about the Estaminets out here, before September 1st they were allowed open all day but after that date only opened from 11am to 1pm and 6 to 8 pm. I had always understood that the sale of alcohol had been stopped after the war started. I have been told that the beer is not strong, but I have seen men drunk with it. I have also been told that spirits can be secured at certain places ‘in the know’ and myself have seen English beer and spirit advertised.

Tuesday 28th September 1915 – I have seen an official report giving that the French had captured 46 guns, the English also taking 2800 prisoners, 53 officers, 11 big guns and 32 machine guns. We had a couple of hours rain last night.

Wednesday 29th September 1915 – It poured down all the night. It is not at all comfortable on sentry when raining especially the way the sentries are worked. Last night we worked it different ourselves, drew lots, a couple doing 1 on and 1 off, the other three 1 on and 2 off. I happened to get in the 1 & 2. I had G Owens’ letter returned to me, I had addressed it to Aunt Louise Cotterill.

Thursday 30th September 1915 – It rained heavily last night till about 1am. Today it is very cold. We expected to go out tonight but are informed that we stay for another 4 days. Up to now while being in I have only had two meals a day but when I knew for certain that we are going to stay in longer, after doing my hours’ work I set off for the village behind the lines but it was empty so I went on to ARMENTIERES and there bought a loaf 6d, 1 tin of milk 9d, sugar 5d, and packet of rice 4d, also a bar of chocolate 1½d. I got about 1lb of sugar for 5d and ½ lb rice in a packet for 4d. The milk is the usual 6½d size. I wanted some Quaker Oats but was asked 1 franc for [a] 1lb box and 1 franc 7½d for [a] 2lb box, so as it was too dear I did not buy. I managed to get down without a pass, risked it and got back safely.

Rogers diary continues with October 1915