The War Diaries of Roger Stamp: July 1917
Roger’s Diary continues on from June 1917…
Sunday 1 July 1917 – On rations 2am
Monday 2 July 1917 – Were relieved and went to the camp which we left at BOYELLES. Had porridge as well as bacon for breakfast, small hut inspection during the afternoon and after tea moved to another section of the camp.
Tuesday 3 July 1917 – Morning parade 9-12.30 then for a swim this afternoon, pay afterwards, tea then cleaned up for the Brigadier inspection of the men who went over the top, oh didn’t we smarten and clean ourselves up to be congratulated for The Daily Mail had published an account of our attack, naming it as one of one of the smartest bits of work in the war. But instead of congratulations we got a sound slating chiefly because we had not consolidated the position and dug in. At my post we did dig in and got deep enough to be safe and were still improving when I had to go to ‘B’ coy , but taken as on a whole we did not dig in, as I went along to ‘B’ coy extreme left part of the trench was only about 3 feet deep which I and my party had to dash past owing to snipers, and no attempt was made to dig in. The Yorks who relieved us had been attacked the day we were relieved, they repulsed the attack but suffered heavy having 143 or 5 casualties, this is where the harm was done, had the position been consolidated , no doubt there would not have been half the casualties for the Yorks. Anyway we were all surprised at getting such a slating, after the Brigadier had gone the Colonels just told the officers to march us back and instead of having a few words as might have been expected, there our officers just dismissed us without a word, so we fell out just the reverse of what we fell in. Goodness knows what would have been said had we lost the position. Went to a YMCA nearby and then to a concert which our battalion concert party were giving.
Wednesday 4 July 1917 – Reveille 5.30am, breakfast and then fell in at 7am. Just after reveille the rain started, we had to inspect huts and then set off for Telegraph Hill near WANCOURT, the rain stopped just before we arrived; we wore our ground sheets all the way. Motor transport brought the tents so after putting them up got settled down. Today as each day since out had rice after the stew; it is nice and always welcome but short of sugar. Inspections of feet, rifle, bayonet and ammunition after dinner. Later I find it is really not Telegraph Hill and is much nearer HENIN than WANCOURT.
Thursday 5 July 1917 – An Aldershot instructor has just been attached to the battalion and has today started a course for NCOs , 4 per coy and 1 officer per coy, on physical training and bayonet fighting. I am one from my coy, my notes are in another book.
Friday 6 July 1917 – On with instruction again.
Saturday 7 July 1917 – Again on instruction including firing on a range. Tonight I went to a YMCA at BOYELLES intending to make purchases and while in the queue prepared to get my money ready and find my money has been stolen from my pay book, 10 francs, all I had left was a penny in my trouser pocket. I don’t know who is to blame and naturally am suspicious of all, it may be God is trying me as I thought when the 25 francs were missing at BAYINCOURT which I have not recovered. If it be a test I thank God for trying me for if he did he must be with me and care for me otherwise why would he put me to the test?
Sunday 8 July 1917 – Rain this morning and heavy during the night, only a short lecture by instructor for about ½ hour, a chap here has been very good, had 4 parcels in three days sharing liberally with me, last night I intended purchasing a good tea to share with him, and today I thought it might seem mean to him so I told him about the money being stolen, asking him to keep it secret, for if it has been stolen I hope the thief will be taken off guard and give himself away. The chap was good and before going out asked if he could bring me anything back- biscuits etc, but these are only luxuries, I asked only for a necessity, some soap, which he got for me.
Monday 9 July 1917 – More instructions today, pay this afternoon so I bought some cake and biscuits for the chap who was so good to me, true friends are scarce. I once read ‘for a friend there is no tomorrow’, this chap proved it.
Tuesday 10 July 1917 – No instructions as we prepare in readiness to go to the trenches this afternoon. On Sunday night I went for a walk almost to WANCOURT, the place where my battalion attacked when I was with the details in ARRAS. Yesterday when getting paid the second in command of ‘A’ coy asked if I had heard anything about my commission. ‘No sir,’ I replied. The OC of my coy Major Raimes has gone to England for a COs course I understand and didn’t know if he had recommended me before going so I saw Mr Williams after he had paid out and asked if he had anything to tell me as I didn’t know how the Major had left me. He, Mr Williams, told me I had been recommended and the reason he asked was he wondered if anything had been said about it by Battalion office, which it has not.
Wednesday 11 July 1917 – Came to the trenches via HENINEL near WANCOURT almost direct in front of CHERISY and in the next sector to the trenches which we were in before we are in posts, the post I am on is number 6 in the trench, there are 7 men and also a Corporal, this Corporal has been put in my section over me of course, for the platoon Sergeant told me I was practically standing to go away for my commission, it certainly is not because I am not fit to be in charge for I think the ability I showed when we attacked was responsible for me being recommended for my commission. I much rather prefer being my own boss, especially as I don’t care for the Corporal, neither do the men. This morning they complained to me about him being back as regards issuing rations, instead of giving the men them after ‘stand to’ he got down to sleep and had to be asked 2 or 3 times before he got up, the men finally got the rations between 9-10am, and the dinner what little there was, was left so I issued it.
Thursday 12 July 1917 – Last night I went out in front, our post is in the trench with an advanced past on each side. I went out and put trip wire just on the near side of our barbed wire with empty tins on so that they would rattle if the wire was trod on, so if anyone got through the wire without us knowing most probably the trip wire would give them away.
Friday 13 July 1917 – Last night put more trip wire and empty tins out, taking one of the men with me as the officer thought some snipers which had been on all day were very near, however we saw no signs. I have put this wire out on my own initiative. Got relieved about midnight going to Curtain trench, the dugout which I was in when attached to Hd Qts when up for four days before. Just about dinner time one of the chaps awakened me, telling me an enemy plane had been brought down landing about 200yds away, we had a good view. The men in the trench ‘stood to’ so that the airmen could not get back to their own lines on foot. After watching awhile I thought I would get a better look at the aeroplane so made my way by trench to it, it was, I discovered, not 20yds form Curtain trench, as I got to Curtain trench within 20yds of it, the enemy artillery opened fire no doubt to destroy the machine, so stopping us from getting a good prize. I think our people had been slow not to have attempted to solve it directly it came down. The shells dropped very near so I cleared off, the place was shelled pretty often all day.
Saturday 14 July 1917 – Turned out for a working party at 9.30, am improving and putting down trench boards in our trench and just near the aeroplane which had not been moved, it showed signs of the shells which had burst near. I expected an attempt would have certainly been made to solve it in the night. I am sure had it been one of our planes in a similar position behind the enemy lines, the enemy would soon have solved it. I learned both aviators were taken prisoner and expressed their opinion that the war would last another year. Again the plane was shelled making it very warm for us working near but one shell had hit or burst near enough to set the plane on fire, the artillery then stopped. Rain had commenced and I think put the fire out, it not having get a good hold.
Sunday 15 July 1917 – Working again this morning clearing the trench where it had been shelled in on from 11am to 1.30pm, relieved by Yorks at 4.30pm and went to Egret trench. Out with working party 10pm to 3.15am.
Monday 16 July 1917 – Got down to sleep in the bit of dugout and was awakened to go to see some other trenches which 3 sections have to go to, this at 10am. After seeing them, got the section ready and moved, Up to this time nothing had been done about rations, I got them as we passed the coy SM place and after moving had breakfast.
Tuesday 17 July 1917 – Was not a working party last night and nothing today so far, are having lovely weather today.
Wednesday 18 July 1917 – Practically the whole of the coy are to be out on working party tonight and the NCOs who are not (of which I am included) have to help with the rations.
Thursday 19 July 1917 – The weather continues fine. The battalion have a day in the trenches just near the Hd Qts for the mens benefits while we are in support.
Friday 20 July 1917 – On working party last night, the men had to carry wood for the tunnelling company, then pass up from a dug out bags of chalk and empty them.
Saturday 21 July 1917 – Had a night off last night. Today at 1.30pm have moved up the line but only to close supports at present-Bullfinch trench. The posts are in a trench that had been newly dug Hd Qts and spare section in Bullfinch, I am with spare section.
Sunday 22 July 1917 – Last night had to go and take over rations and bring the carrying party up which was provided by ‘C’ coy. Take a turn with 2 other NCOs on duty in the trench fortunately have been able to borrow a magazine to read, have a manhole to kip in.
Monday 23 July 1917 – Rations again last night. Today when carrying my squads rations was surprised to find an issue or rabbit, they ran out about 1 between 3 men, quite a surprise, of course ready boiled and very nice too. I’ve intended for a long time to mention about some issue jam we get, we have had lemon and melon which I like very much also rhubarb and marmalade made from lemon, extra special is Robinsons silver shread. Robinsons and Chilvers always are good issues of marmalade and jam. I have written this for reference after the war.
Tuesday 24 1917 – No bacon today, instead an issue of herring in tomato sauce (champion) pickled by Watson of Newcastle, one tin between 4 men. This afternoon the front line was cleared, the men going to Shank street and we in Bullfinch trench had to ‘stand to’ for 3 hours bombardment by our guns though very little bombardment was done. Relieved at 7pm, C, D relieving A, B, ‘A’ coy going to Cookoo reserve trench. After getting in I and another NCO went off to the Rookery for water, it being a hot, dry day and the issue very small. All water comes to the trench in petrol tins, the tins generally run out to a certain extent, then the carrying party generally help themselves to a drink when carrying a water up, for my squad is issued a 2 gallon tin for 8 of us though instead of 16 it is more often like 14 pints, tonight on rations, ‘A’ coy carrying for ‘C’ coy as they did for us.