Roger’s diary continues on from August 1916…
Friday 1 September 1916 – Bayonet drill and map instruction today. A bright sunny day.
Saturday 2 September 1916 – On the battalion parade ground our brigadier inspected us and told us what we may have to do when we go in action.
Sunday 3 September 1916 – Running drill before breakfast, Wesleyan parade at 11.30 am. Shooting on the range at 4pm.
Monday 4 September 1916 – Wet day, lecture by Colonel, short route march.
Tuesday 5 September 1916 – Usual daily routine except for tonight when we had practice for brigade attack.
Wednesday 6 September 1916 – Nice fine day, usual running, morning and night parades.
Thursday 7 September 1916 – Reveille 5am, breakfast, parade at battalion parade ground 6.30 am and started for a divisional parade at 7am. Had about 7km to march, fighting order, then divisional manoeuvres till about 2.30 pm, my battalion had a good time being in reserve doing practically nothing, then had dinner, the cooks having come up with the cook engines, afterwards setting off for billets passing BAIZIEUX and HENENCOURT. Vincent Brown, a North Terrace chap in the R E [Royal Engineers], came to see 3 of us at our billet and had tea with us.
Friday 8 September 1916 – No ordered reveille and the only parade we had was from 9.30am to 11.45am. We had a contest this morning, all details being inspected, the officers by the Colonel; signallers, Lewis gunners, bombers, stretcher bearers and guards by their officer instructors and the NCOs by the Major and Sergeant Major, the line men by the adjutant. No 1 platoon came second. 50 francs for the platoon.
Saturday 9 September 1916 – Moved to BECOURT WOOD tonight and bivouacked. Some REs [Royal Engineers] were near and I found, asked for and received permission to take a piece of tarpaulin sufficient for my bivouac top. The guns were noisy.
Sunday 10 September 1916 – Detailed off to go with Lieutenant Williams, our 2nd in command of Company and with others we went to the trenches which our battalion will take over, passing CONTALMAISON which is nothing but heaps of stones and bricks. Practically all the ground we covered is that gained since the big advance started. We were out from 3pm till 7.15pm. After getting to sleep I was awakened and detailed for tomorrow as divisional signal orderly.
Monday 11 September 1916 – I had to report to HQ at 6.30am, was up in good time somewhere near 5am and with another chap was directed to a railway copse passing FRICOURT farm and reported at divisional signal office, I with some others carrying messages as cables are not yet laid down. This morning had to find our brigade office for messages.
Tuesday 12 September 1916 – The signal office and divisional HQ are in what was a German dug out built in a bank side impossible almost to hit with a shell, even the top. Then 15 steep big steps lead down, I have been about 60yds along the passage, came to some French soldiers so did not go further. From the passage little rooms branched off. Had two or three messages to take out. Have a cycle if we like to make use of it. This morning heard the guns of machine gun going in the air, one of our planes and a Taube enemy were engaged and shortly afterwards Taube fell to the earth in one flame of fire. I think it must have got into line of fire of one of our artillery guns which were firing. I don’t think the other plane, ours, was responsible for bringing it down.
Wednesday 13 September 1916 – Nothing special today, the division which ours is relieving are moving out and I with another orderly have got a good dug out and have a wood and metal lathe bed. Four other orderlies while out with messages last night were wet through by the rain which came on suddenly and very heavy. The rain makes the roads impossible to ride on, they are only mud tracks.
Thursday 14 September 1916 – I should have not been surprised had we been sent back to our battalions, there are orderlies from each battalion in the division. I have nothing to grumble at but yet I would like to be with the lads in my own company. It is thought that they are going over the top tomorrow, if not will be in reserve and so take part in an advance which is expected. Would much rather be with them and take my chance. Received my ear drums from Edinburgh today.
Friday 15 September 1916 – Slept all ready in case we were needed. At 1am a message had to go off the line to brigade signal office, back just after 3am nothing special was then going on. Just after 6am we were wakened by the artillery firing, very heavy, all guns were going including some French guns (120’s) which are near. The attack started at 6.20am. Shortly after the order came for all orderlies to ‘stand to’ in case of messages but up to now, 9am, we have not been needed, so expect no wires have been cut by shells. Had wires been cut we orderlies would have had a heavy time whereas now have had no active share in the advance. I do believe everything has been for the best but yet I would have liked to be in the affair. A prisoner of war camp is about 100yds away, I have just been over to see some prisoners which have been brought in, about 250, but more are on the way, some have been taken away. They look a poor lot, some are wounded but the majority are not. Been to transport lines for our rations and mail, more prisoners have come and gone, one batch of 7 or 8 had their faces coloured nearly black. A French soldier said it was through liquid fire. One of our observation balloons was brought down just after tea, I don’t know how but I saw it falling. The aviator came down in a parachute nice and slowly. The balloon beat him down and it did not come down fast.
Saturday 16 September 1916 – Have had no messages to take since 3am yesterday. Have heard we have taken 2,500 prisoners altogether. An aeroplane delivers messages here, drops them with ribbons attached, a cross is marked out for a guiding place. If all is clear the message is dropped but should an enemy plane be near our signal aeroplane passes by and blows 3 whistles, not dropping the message. At this the man on duty covers the guiding mark over and our aeroplane manoeuvres about till all is clear.
Sunday 17 September 1916 – This morning had to go with message to brigade HQ in the trenches. I tried to find my battalion but learned they were in the firing line so could not get to them. They attacked again at 9.20am yesterday and am told they do so again. A few more prisoners were brought yesterday, they come willing enough needing very little escort, six men might bring 20 prisoners. Some prisoners had little parcels with them, one or two had blankets and it seemed as though they had prepared to be taken and it was surprising to see how many displayed a red cross, no doubt just put on before giving themselves up. All prisoners including officers were searched; their firearms had been left up the line. The wounded were taken to hospital.
Monday 18 September 1916 – Heavy rain last night and today, am sorry for the chaps in the trenches, they have no overcoats with them only taking fighting kit. Had a message to brigade tonight and learn the lads may be relieved tonight or tomorrow morning. The cook engines are up near brigade HQs ready for them, they are to have tea first and another hot meal as soon as possible.
Tuesday 19 September 1916 – Went up to brigade HQ with message and learned our lads had not come out but while there I saw some chaps coming over a ridge from the trenches so waited and saw what was the remains of our battalion coming back headed by the Colonel. Poor lads, what a sight, clay from head to foot, it poured down last night also, struggling along taking their own time, about 120 out of a battalion of 8-900, but I learn a great number are only slight wounds and may be back in a few days’ time. Plenty of tea was ready with rum and whisky in it. The cooks buttering and jamming biscuits and bread, then new socks, shirts & pants given out also the overcoats had been brought up. Three shells came over while our lads passed near the brigade HQ. They have very little cover, only old shell holes, the majority of officers have been killed or wounded, my platoon officer being killed. I did like him, he greatly resembled an old friend of mine, J Hamilton, who was drowned at ROUEN. Lot of other chaps in the platoon have been wounded, some men had just struggled up as I came away, about 1 hour after the first lot.
Wednesday 20 September 1916 – Had more rain last night and this morning. Yesterday I learnt from our lads that the Germans used an old treacherous game on them, which was to come out in good numbers, offering themselves up, and when our lads went to meet them they dropped flat and their machine guns opened fire.
Thursday 21 September 1916 – The only item of interest today is a splendid parcel from home.
Friday 22 September 1916 – A much nicer and warmer day, my battalion are still out of the trenches, camping behind BAZENTIN-LE-PETIT wood. I get my mail when I go up to brigade HQ with a message, which is only about 200yds from my battalion. Two divisions went over the top this morning and could find no enemy, they advanced 1,000 yds.
Saturday 23 September 1916 – This morning at 3am we in our dug out, 5 of us, were wakened by a shell bursting near and then heard some bits of earth striking the corrugated iron roof. Our dug out is not really a dug out but a hut, 2 sides are sand bags, the other 2 canvas. We made a quick move down to the big dug out where division HQ are and slept in the passage way, this being safe although it was an inconvenient place had there been anyone passing along. A lovely fine day, the sun being great, the ground and roads are practically dry now. A camp about 400yds away was shelled this afternoon. The battalion go in the trenches tonight. So far today, 9pm, have not had any messages to take.
Sunday 24 September 1916 – On going with a message I find the 150 Brigade HQ had moved to the quarries, a place near a cemetery in front of a little battered village BAZENTIN-LE-PETIT wood. Having lovely weather.
Monday 25 September 1916 – We clubbed together and bought custard powder and had some with pineapple for tea. No messages today.
Tuesday 26 September 1916 – Made a blancmange and custard today. I thought how often I might have helped Mother at home had I only had a little thought, how often I could have eased the work for her and caused her pleasure.
Wednesday 27 September 1916 – 5.30pm no messages today, nice weather.
Thursday 28 September 1916 – Last night about 11pm I was laid down half asleep, the others, one was on a message, other 3 sat up playing cards, when I heard ‘get down below’. The 3 dashed out putting the candle out, I got up to see what was the reason. It was an aeroplane, enemy, dropping bombs so of course I went in the divisional HQs, this big dugout down below. The other 3 in their panic forgot me and had I been properly asleep, would have been left but although 14 bombs were dropped none were actually near our place. I heard that 7 RE men were hurt. Two days ago some Gordons were working near, one struck an old mills bomb accidentally with a pick, it exploded and I saw 5 men who had been injured, two severely. I heard 7 had been hit. Heard of some others lighting a fire over an old ‘dud’ shell unconsciously; it exploded with the heat and did some damage.
Friday 29 September 1916 – Today, while having dinner, heard an explosion. Some French artillery were firing, they are only 250yds away. One shell on being fired exploded in the gun, breaking it in two, and the body of the gun carriage was split like a split pin and the wheels forced outwards. There were 3 casualties. A nasty wet day today.
Saturday 30 September 1916 – Nothing special today, nice fine weather, no messages to take.
Roger’s Diary continues in October 1916…