TRENCH. THE HELL BABES & SOME OTHERS
Compiled by Chas Harris
everybody in the 42nd Bn AIF,
The object of this little book is to keep a record
of some of the most prominent events and humorous things that happened
to us while we were in the land of wine and women. Why so named I
cannot imagine, for speaking from experience and the experience of my
friends the only thing that is higher priced than wine and therefore
unattainable, is women. The only thing that is in anyway cheap and
useable is 'Biere' and the surprising thing is that the supply never
seems to run short despite the onslaughts made upon it by Joe, Morris,
Mahoney R and others. To see them nightly sit down and swallow gallons
of this stuff is an education on stomach expansion. But I digress. So,
asking you to be lenient in your criticism of my literary efforts and
also on the failings of my friends, I am, believe me,
Yours very sincerely,
First, Middle and Last.
Our first idea of France for an extended visit was
from our transport, a paddle wheeled old tub that in the pre-war days
was used to convey 'appy 'arry's and 'harriets from London to the
pleasures of Margate and the other seaside resorts. Well to say the
least of it some of the boys were feeling squeamish and some had
squeamed. Thorne, Stevo and I were hard up trying to keep out of the
way of people who would persist in being sick. There is very little
room for sleeping and everywhere we tried to sleep we were hunted out
of the way by some of the heads or by some old sea dog.
She was as fast as ……..as Piggie. In other words
she could hit top speed and keep clear of all the rocks, compree? We
got our packs on as usual when we made fast. And were kept standing
there for 2 hours and then put out to sea again. Meanwhile some one on
the top deck who was suddenly and violently seized with mal-de-mer
nearly got us. After messing about outside the harbour for while we
came back in and berthed. Then we disembarked. And then, oh God, they
marched us for a thousand miles round and round Harve. Our impressions
of that town are nil, as we were too tired to notice.
Finally after what seemed an age we got to the top
of the highest hill in the neighbourhood where the rest camp was
located. We waded through water and swam into our tents. Then at the
canteen we purchased beer that hasn't an equal outside of Aus but the
finances would not allow a larger sampling of the same. We had a good
sleep that night and next morning we slept in. got roared on by St
John and finally got moving. Repeated the performance of the previous
night and at last got to the Station where we were to embark. Sat
around for an hour or two so washed in some puddle holes (our first
wash for some time I might mention).
I got into the crush that was buying tea at a stall
run by some French ladies. Got scalded but got my tea. Then we were
packed 30 deep into a horsebox and started enroute to god knows where.
On the way we passed through Rouen, Boulogne, St Vines and many other
places that I cannot recall to mind at present. That night I slept
nice and comfy on an entrenching tool with George Laurie's foot in my
mouth. (He was later KIA) We lived very
well on bully beef and biscuits, tea and water, especially water. The
sanitary arrangements were up to mud. We got an issue of emergency
rations. Arrived at Bailleul. We, that is Mahoney R and I got cut off
for fatigues. They hooked us up to a Lewis gun limber and made us pull
like any other donkey.
After various changes we finally got to Outterstrum
about 10 kilometres from our starting point. Dog tired and as usual
with our crowd we had to stand messing about in the cold for an hour
before they allotted us our billets. Got in finally right at the top
of a three-storey home. Stevo, Thorne and I went out to make some
purchases and I was interpreter. While I made dumb signs and made a
fool of myself generally they stood back and grinned.
Now to a class of natives to whom I owe an apology
and that is the girls who come around hawking. I shared the popular
opinion that one only had to use a little finesse and they would be as
good as gold. For a monetary consideration of course. Well either we
were lacking in diplomacy or our figure wasn't high enough or both
because neither of us did any good. There was
one "imitation paradise" but they mounted a guard on it and
it was reserved for officers. Selfish brutes. There was one
sweet thing though with a pimply face and cross-eyes that in response
to a remark of mine told me to go chase myself.
There are a lot of things that take the eye over
here. The wooded sabots and people driving horses with one rein. Also
the wagons and carts they use. There are two pony wheels in front and
sometimes one. They bear the same relation to the cart as a rudder
does to a boat. They have a fine class of horse too. Nice junky little
fellows, short backs, arched necks and well turned. Some of the
natives run about with handcarts with loads that would put some horses
to shame. Male and female alike. They utilise everything here in
Flanders. There are treadmills attached to churns operated by a dog
running around in them. Likewise they hitch their dogs to carts and
make them do their bit for King and Country. One thing that surprised
me to see still in operation was the old fashioned Dutch windmill. Big
clumsy things that they are. They remind me of the pictures hanging on
the wall at home.
The only kind of feed that is sold here is
pommes-de-terre, frity and oeufs. They are dispensed in smelly rooms
by dirty women at 1 franc 50 including coffee and brown bread and
margarine. One thinks of cutlets and beefsteak and one realises what
one has sacrificed for his Country. The first pay in France will long
live in our memory. We were all just about out so 40 francs was
comparative affluence. Joe, Thorne and I went out for a ramble. And
speaking about wine-ups there is one you want to mention if you hear
anyone talking about big drinking. As fast as the various
Madamissiolers we visited could pour it out we drank it, irrespective
of colour or quality. We met a pretty girl in one of the
establishments and in answer to a question from me, after a while of
consideration, she opined that the Australians were as a whole not as
bad as the Hun. Her sister had something wrong with her foot,
frostbite I think and in trying to explain it to Joe she started him
giggling. He made one explain what was out in the place called "Couer".
We finally pulled up in a town inhabited solely by
natives and Tommies. We decided on supper. I was at the stage where I
wanted to speak French, so I tried it on the buxom waitress. After
about 5 goes she finally told me to speak English. I point blank
refused and finally made her understand what we wanted. After drinking
about 50 francs we wandered into a place where there were several
girls, a lot of Tommies and an accordion. I gave a free rendition of
some of the latest rags on the last named instrument, to the great
disgust of the audience. When shut up time came I refused to go out
until the pretty girl of the group kissed me. She was reluctant. I was
determined. Finally in answer to Thorne's "Kiss him for Christs
sake and let's go home" she did. I don't know why but I usually
do seem to get what I go after.
By this time we were blithering drunk and the only
thing that saved us was that we both leaned inwards and so by
combining and making use of mutual support we managed to make
progress. We went well until we tried to dodge a fire engine that kept
trying to run us over. Finally to evade the dam thing we had to take
cover until the Cocky came out. Seeing the plight I was in and summing
up the situation he led me round to the stables, put me to bed in some
nice warm straw and covered me with bags and things. I slept as well
as circumstances would permit until early morn, then bidding farewell
to my room-mates which included sheep, horses, fowls, rats and the dog
I went out to scout around for my overcoat, hat, scarf, gloves and
sundry other items that I had strewn about by the roadside. I was
unsuccessful so I went back to the billet arriving just as they were
falling in. I was wet through and as everything was frozen it will not
be necessary for me to dwell on my condition. The boys undressed me
and put me to bed and gave me some hot tea and soup. And now I will
leave myself there alone with my cramps and return to Joe
After leaving me he has a very hazy idea of what
happened .He got back to Outterstrum somehow and passing our billets
he pulled up at the Guardroom. After giving a hell of a lot of lip he
succeeded in getting himself run in. They came around to the billets
to get his blankets and by way of information they said to have mine
ready as they expected to have me any old time. Poor fools! They Put
Joe to bed nice and cosy but he refused to be warm: he kicked off the
blankets and slept on the floor. I would give a franc and so would he
to know what happened in the time between him leaving me and getting
run in. Next day they let him out for a bit of a run and he came and
had a look at me. We added up our conjoint amount of cash and it made
the grand total of 9 franc 50. So in the course of the night we drank
70 franc 50. Truly a wet night. But the best was yet to come. The
doctor came to see me that day and gave me some jallop or something
equally obnoxious. It eased my cramps a lot. But Oh God I paid. I was
afraid to shut my eves because as soon as I did I saw hairy things
playing musical instruments and I concluded I had the blues. After a
good nights sleep I was feeling more like myself. Joe had to report to
the Orderly Room so I wasn't surprised when the CSM gave me a like
invitation. Sandy buttonholed me and gave me a
lecture on the evils of drink and the bad example I was setting young
fellows like Clarke and Warren. Two young buggers by the way who drink
a dam sight more than I do.
I swore that it wasn't the drink but cramps that
made me so bad and I was so earnest that he believed it or practically
so towards the end. He said he couldn't save me from the Orderly Room:
I assured him I didn't want to be saved, that I was quite prepared to
pay the price of any of my little jokes. Went up before Potts. I was
charged with AWL only. Poor old Joe was up against AWL and drunk,
Potts couldn't deal with him so he had to go before the Colonel. I
stuck to my guns and pleaded cramps and Ptomaine poisoning. Too
serious for him so Colonel for me too. Standing outside Headquarters
with a Guard mounted on us Joe and I became possessed of a desire to
giggle. God only knows what at. It wasn't funny by any means, as I was
as sick as a dog --and Joe couldn't have felt much better. Joe's turn
came at last and he was just in when he came out with six days No.2. I
went in and talked like buggery on how after having a few wines I was
seized with cramps. And I told such a good tale that he let me off
with a reprimand and a lecture on how much he thought of the Bombing
Platoon and how it behoved us all especially the NCO's to uphold its
Get me stem. Everyone congratulated me on my gift of
the gab. Joe reckoned I was a Hun. Mahoney and Clarke had a very good
night but as I was out then I missed their antics I'm sorry to say as
they are funny when under the influence of liquor. The funny part of
it was that by wav of Punishment Sandy did not send me to school he
sent Dennis instead. The night before he and the most of the Platoon,
including the Sergeant, got beastly full. Clarke was busy climbing up
the stairs and falling down again. Warren was roaming around cleaning
his muddy boots on everyone's clean blankets and Mahoney was doing a
can-can for the edification of the Public in general. The Sergeant was
busy vomiting into an empty biscuit tin when Dennis came roaring along
the floor on all fours and ignoring the Sergeant he buried his head in
the tin and was sick to his hearts content. Poor beggar had to turn
out at 5.30 in the morning. Harry Morris came
into my section today. He is by all accounts capable of holding up the
busy end of the Platoon. The only humorous thing I can remember
is Billy got full and wanted to sing and no where else would do only
on the bar counter: but there was nothing doing.
We shifted from Ottterstrum and came to Armentieres
passing Bailleul and Neippe. These Places are the first we have seen
that have borne the brunt of war. They are blown to pieces, especially
prominent objects like Churches. No doubt the
Hun owes civilisation a long and elaborate apology. The
buildings and things of historical interest he has destroyed around
here alone are beyond count. Now Armentieres is a town of size and
therefore we were misguided enough to think there could be
Possibilities. As soon as we got paid we went out scouting and sampled
all the beer in all the various estaminet. In one Place we got beer
with gollywogs in it and it made Joe and Stevo violently ill. Mahoney
and I held onto ours and took more on board. Dennis came home with
mournful tales of school and things in general. Mud was the theme of'
all his wailing. He said there was nothing new in the way of bombs or
bombing. The funniest thing is the classes they give us. Bret and I
go. 2-day courses and they expect a chap to take them serious. We
generally get them away somewhere and tell yarns. We have scoured this
town for Flossy and cannot find any though everyone talks of it.
Instead we found Alice! Now Alice is a brunette of
the pronounced type. She has a voice that clears a way through any
sound. Shrill and incessant. She also has a flowery collection of
smutty sayings that cause the softer portion of the A.I.F. to believe
that she is a good thing. Which is wrong! I happen to know as at one
time I numbered among the softer Portion. But giving it all in she is
one of the brightest kids in Armentieres. And though she refused to
open the doors of Eden for me I still like to bask in her smile and
drink 'Special' beer and warm at her fire. There is an old chap that
can play a melodeon as well as any thing I have heard.
- What would you rather have on hand?
- A grand baby or a baby grand
- A grand baby often yells and hollers
- But a baby grand is worth 600 dollars
- So rock a bye baby in the treetop
- She sings as loud as a band
- May be, Mabie you want a grand baby
- Or may be a baby grand
And now to go on about Alice. Joe doesn't like her
because she wiped her beery hand on his face. Le Petit Francaise (Rob)
does because she was misguided enough to kiss him at one misguided
moment. Of course our kisses (Alice's and mine) are quite different.
They are the outcome of real affection and besides, I am older and no
one takes the aged seriously. Not even Alice.
One day while the boys were
cleaning bombs, someone let the striker down on the cap and only for
the promptitude of Blue Tongue (No.4) there would have been a serious.
As it was Charlie Miller got a Piece in his knee that put him on the
list of the disabled for sometime. One day 99 came to me and told me
quite confidently that he and I and one or two others had a good thing
on. Namely a raid on Fritz and that it was coming up in a day or two.
Of course I pricked up my ears and felt something like Chris Columbus
felt when he discovered America. My dreams were of going over to the
Hun lines, killing many and capturing some, coming home with much
information and finally getting the VC pinned to my manly bosom by the
King. That was my dream old chap. Here was the reality. About 60 of us
were drafted off from the Battalion and sent round to the Blue Blind
factory. And found that every Battalion in the Brigade had done the
same. Then they got us all together and told us what terribly
important people we were and how much depended on us. They assured us
that the Bull (Commanding Officer)
had said that we must be fed up on the fat of the land and trained up
to the nines and that tinned fruit and cocoa was to be on the menu
daily. That, I might mention was part of a dream.
What we got was stew a la Jock Barton. Bully beef
and biscuits in limited quantity. The training part of the joke was
right though. They got two Physical Torture maniacs named Bishop and
Newman to put us through. And the rotters used to make us bayonet
fight and P.E.T. us until we got that way we used to hate the pair of
them. Lahey Mava and Hanlon are the bulls of our lot.
Mumps are prevalent and everyone is going to
Hospital. Birdwood came one day and inspected us
but they wouldn't let me see him as I had no felt hat. I had to go and
hide behind the Railway line and hold the Colonels horse. Very
undignified. Then one day Duggie Haig became possessed of a burning
desire to behold the 11th Brigade in full panoply of war. and of
course the old buggar had his way. And as it is a very important
affair, great preparations had to be made. All men must he dressed
alike and Battalion rushed an order through that boots must be laced
straight across and not diagonally. Also that the bottle of iodine
must be carried in the inner pocket of' the tunic. On the morning of'
hero day we slung our 110 lbs on our shoulders and started lightly
enough for Steinwick (not Joe's pimply tart but the town) and then it
rained. That meant dropping our Packs on the side of the road and
getting our overcoats out. As I had no overcoat it meant I had to grin
and bear it. We plodded through the mud and finally finished the 8
miles and got inspected by that bug whiskered
Then about turn for home, still raining and nothing
to eat since at 5. Some fool got a notion that it might be a good to
try and find the limit of endurance so they ran us over a mile of
ploughed ground and then gave us some luke-warm tea. In the meantime
my Puttee had become unrolled and was dragging along in the mud until
some goat walked on it nearly bringing me down. Got home chaffed,
footsore and weary with nothing worth mentioning to eat. Then they
wonder why a chap voted NO. (In the Conscription
Dennis and his crowd went up to Le
Tronchap today. We saw them go their eves wrinkled and their lips
tight. Like men who know that they go to their death but go there
nevertheless. I hope there is no one here to take notice of me the day
I go in for the first time.
The first time in we were awakened at 3 o'clock and
given a dogs breakfast and packed off for the line. It was cold and
muddy and everyone one was more or less miserable. First we got our
gumboots and then we went up the communication trench that starts At
the back of the town and is so appropriately called Lunatic Lane.
After a while I notice that every one was doing just the same as me,
namely keeping their head down even though we were a hell of a long
way from where it was dangerous. Finally we got into the subsidiary
lines and began to see some of the boys.
Finally we came to where the bombers were and such a
dirty lot of unshaven brutes I never saw. And judging by the amount of
advice they gave us, and the hair-raising tales told one would have
thought we in the retreat from Mons. As was only to be expected. We
were fooled about for an hour or so before anyone came to claim us.
Finally old Sandy got hold of us and took us home. He has divided the
bombers into two groups (A & B). I am in charge of A and Brebner (later
CSM James Brebner MID) is in charge of B. As we are the last in
of course we got the worst dugouts.
Clarke and I finally got into one that was more or
less rainproof and made ourselves fairly comfy. And then the struggle
began. Now don't be fool enough to imagine that I mean a struggle with
a big Hun or anything of that sort because I don't. The struggle I
refer to was between a size nine foot and a size seven gumboot. Now if
you have ever grappled with an obstinate gumboot you may be able to
sympathise with me. But for the pleasure of the uninitiated I will
describe it. The change had to be made in the trench and as the
duckboards are very narrow and everything else is mud you take off
your black boot very carefully balancing on one foot the while. Then
just at the critical moment some fool comes along carrying a dixie or
a bundle and knocks you off your board with the result that you get
your sock all muddy. You refrain from abuse at the cost of a lot of
personal inconvenience. You fish out a clean pair and proceed to carry
on. Get one on and then find that the other is about two sizes too
small. You pull and heave and swear until the veins are standing out
on your forehead and you gain about half an inch. Clarke and some of
the other idiots who have been lucky enough to get the right size
stand by grinning. A chance wizz-bang passing overhead and close
didn't tend to facilitate matters as I slipped in the mud and dirtied
my trousers (with mud of course) and lost two and half inches in the
boot. The dam thing gives in at last and goes on.
Then I find out that it's too tight and I can't wear
it. Or get it off. So I lie on my back and take leverage with my other
foot while Clarke and Buckley pull it and half my foot off. Half wav
through the operation the officer calls, "Fall in.
everybody" so I have to race down the trench with one gumboot and
one black boot and all my gear hanging on me haphazard. Change the
boot for one that will fit and thereby ended the struggle.
Clarke Warren and I go on the right sector and
things, are very quiet: with the exception of one sniper and one
machine gun there was nothing startling doing. Excepting Shrubb who
got severely nibbled at by a rat who beat a successful retreat before
Shrubb had time to organise a counter attack.
Christmas Day. Had a walk to
celebrate the occasion. Some of the chaps were not even that lucky. I
mean Plucky. (Soldiers were not allowed
to walk back from the front lines and walking up and down a trench
seems pointless so I can only assume that "a walk" means a
trip out into No Man's Land) Had a spell in the morning. Sandy
sent Conner and Wood into town for some Plum pudding. So everyone was
in the concert pitch of expectancy. I don't know it tasted like as I
absently minded swallowed mine whole while retrieving an onion out off
the dirt where Pitt "The Cuckoo" had dropped it but I
daresay it was first class.
Had a darn good sleep that night and next morning
got a parcel from Aunt Kate and that combined with the one Dennis got
and the Christmas Cheer made up a very decent meal. And smokes galore.
Nearly got sniped going out to the listening
Post so made young Jim come out with me next time.
Shrubb was on guard with Stevo and Thorne and seeing
what he thought was a rat in the next bay he made a vicious lunge at
it with the bayonet. He got it too. But it appeared quite clear even
to the intelligence of Shrubb that the supply of abuse that came there
from was not at the disposal of even a trench rat. As a matter of fact
he had severely staked Scotty Robinson.
Then again there was a Sergeant from the 4Ist who
had been roaming around on anybody's land, got bushed and came in on
our sector. Steve saw him coming and halted him with the usual remark
"Who goes there?" "Wiri " answered the bird and as
our password was " Brisbane", Stevo wasn't taking any
chances. "Alright 'Wiri' advance with your hands over your head
and explain yourself'". Which the chap did. While on the subject
of sentries just a case that happened to me one morning. Just before
stand down we left our Job early and I was making home when I was
halted by the sentry and asked the Password. "Dalby" says I
thinking of the one from the previous night. "Dalby be buggared
" he said "it's Roma". (Editors
note. Dalby and Roma are both small towns in central south west
How different the trenches are to what a man thought
they would be. My idea on leaving Queensland was that you got on the
fire step and shot a Hun any old time. Always providing that he didn't
get you in the meantime. What really happens is this. You keep your
head religiously below the parapet. And if by chance you get curious
as to what is doing on the other side you do so with the aid of
And as for seeing a Hun few of the boys know by
experience which end of a Hun is harmful. He is keen on the sniping
joke. I don't know if our chaps out match him in that particular
branch or not as one would have to be in his lines to get an idea.
His worst weapon of offence is
the Minenwerfer. A species of trench mortar that hurls a cask of H.E.
about the size and shape of a demi-john. You can see them coming but
that avails you little as they are like a cross-eyed person: they
never go where they are looking. Particularly offensive. Next comes
the whizz-bang. A thing like a red devil that comes too straight and
quick to be termed a mortar. Or to be dodged as by the time you hear
the Whizz it has knocked the head of someone half a mile behind you.
And some seconds later you hear the Bang. Effect local. And not to be
treated seriously by any one other than the relatives of the deceased.
Then Pineapples and rifle grenades are milder forms
of recreation indulged in by the Playful Hun. They aren't very nerve
racking. Some of the tales bought home occasionally by Ballamy Hocking
and some others are worth recording but one would want a ledger to
hold them all. Clarke and Deckhardt were on duty one night and being
doubtful of something that was laying on No Man's Land they decided to
investigate. Deckhardt kept it covered with his finger on the trigger
while Clarke went out and threw stones at it. But it wasn't a Hun
Patrol. Mahoney R braved the dangers of No Mans Land and went out to a
Wiring Party and Covering Party. We went out on patrol with the 44th
Scouts and I here and now and always give the biscuit to Cpl Johnson
as the shell hole king. On hearing the report of a rifle on any part
of the sector he promptly disappears and is sure to be right on the
bottom of the deepest shell hole. And as a scout he is up to putt. He
got lost and one of our scouts directed him home.
By way of detail I might
mention that a Lewis gunner nearly got us. He must have woke up
suddenly and mistaken us for Huns, and fired point blank at us. Rotten
shot anyway. He is now Pte. J Clarke 76I B Coy 42nd Battalion. A.I.F.
G1 Ward Military Hospital East Dulwich Groove London S.E.
We are still at the raid school. Thorne and Stevo
came over to replace Pat Newman and some more who went to hospital
with mumps. Still on the P?? ?9 only Percy Newman has gone to the
hospital with trench feet.
I have charge of the left Bombing Party on the raid.
Reed has the right. Grant Hanlon got an Australia from a Minnie so
Gillon has his place as O.C. Parapet. Beer is about the only thing
that happens while we are behind the lines. The bombers are roaring
like one thing. They have to go up on working Parties to the trench
every day. And it is Non Bon.
The 44th made a raid and the bombardment was so
heavy on the Hun front line that that when they got in there was no
one there to oppose them. So the result of this raid was nil. The 3rd
Division Artillery has replaced the Tommies now so we ought noon see
"what they are made of". Ned, John Walker, Nimi and Brownie
had better watch themselves and keep off the Rouse if they want to
retain our friendship. As we will have to lie out under their barrage
and a shell dropped short is a fearsome thing.
I just want to mention some of the women who have
come into the limelight as far as we are concerned. Firstly there is
Black Alice. The Divinity. Lucy of the Golden Plume. Fatty of the
Souvenirs. Ginger. Steinwick Alice. And last but not least. Ellen No
Compree. Some of the boys are calf struck on some that I have
mentioned. Mahoney R worships at the shrine of the scarlet one. Joe is
enmeshed in the tails of the Fatty. Irrevocably so since seeing where
she keeps her souvenirs. Dennis is a jealous rival of the fat ones
smiles. Stevo is torn between conflicting desires namely Steinwick and
No compree. Clarke is doing tres bon with some charlady of doubtful
habits. I have not seen her. The verbal account of her charms or lack
of them was sufficient.
Morris is a silent worker. I don't know if he has
any other aims in life save beer. His Powers of absorbing it in
unlimited quantities has earned for him the well-deserved name of
"Mop". Personally speaking I am hopelessly in love with
Black Alice and I might mention that I am not the only one in the
swim. But opposition only lends zest to the victory.
I must not omit how I nearly got Mentioned in
Dispatches. Lance Corporal McLean of the Scouts found a mine set out
just outside a gap in the Huns wire. It was rigged in such a position
that anyone roaming through the gap in a casual way would get a speedy
shift for Gehenna. The gap I might mention was left open purposely. As
he wasn't very well versed in the habits of the infernal machines he
came and reported and next night I was detailed to go out with him and
get it. The Sergeant came out for the fun of the thing. We left our
trenches on the left sector and warned them of course. We happened to
cross over into the centre sector who hadn't been warned. One of the
Lewis gunners saw us and thinking we were some Huns he gave us
magazine for luck. A proceeding that made us seek the bottom of a
shell hole and stay there until his enthusiasm had cooled somewhat. We
got the bombs all right and altogether it was a pretty commonplace
affair. But McLean got mentioned in Corps Orders: how he discovered
the mine and led two Battalion Bombers out to it. Harmon got mentioned
for getting the flag that Fritz rigged out in Anybody's Land.
Sorrensen was out with a Patrol of
the 44th Scouts near the Hun wire and the ground was covered with
frost: extremely hard to get along with out noise. The Hun most have
got wind of them as he put a couple of belt into them killing the
Corporal and wounding the Sergeant. Sorrensen carried the wounded man
all the way back to our trenches and then the dirty rotters that were
out with him denied it so Poor old Sorry didn't get a mention.
Poor old Stan stopped a Whiz-bang.
Potts, the O.C. of B Coy got a Blighty. Grant Hanlon got an Australia.
Big McIntyre got blown up. Bennie and Pike got shell shock. That is
about all the chaps that I know well: of course there are lots more.
Hume and 0'Brien came and joined and brought their
squads with them. The heads have come to the conclusion that it is no
good raiding the Huns front lines, there is no information to be had
there. Their idea now is to go back to his support line. The Plan of
campaign is When the barrage lifts the four Bombing Groups hop into
the front Hume works to the right in the front line, O'Brien to the
left. Brebner works up the communication trench to the support trench
and turns right. I follow him up with the 8th and work along the Hun
left support trench for no more that I00 yards. Some stunt that. We
practise it every day until everyone in and around Armentieres knows
just what and when and how we intend to do. We were using live bombs
in one Practise and Clarke who was first bayonet man ordered two bombs
first traverse. Thorne and Hopkins threw one each. They
both landed together and one exploding a second or two before the
other blew it in to the air above us where it burst. And the shrapnel
from it killed Poor old Bill Stevenson and wounded Jack Clarke and
Hopkins. It was rotten luck for poor old Stevo and his people.
We are all sorry to lose a friend who had the many good qualities that
Bill had. He had many friends and we are all united in offering our
sympathies to his relatives. He is buried in Mite Bon Jean Cemetery in
Armentieres and is in Plot 8. Young Jack Clarke was lucky he only got
a piece in the shoulder. A severe Blighty but it will tide him over
the winter and perhaps the War. Hopkins is likewise.
Well, to go back to raids. We messed about for a
week after the accident and one morning Capt. Lahey wandered in when
we were on Parade and told us casually that zero day was had arrived.
Of course we were jubilant. Oh yes. We had a spell that day and got
everything ready. Talk about a Krupp factory. It wasn't in it with us.
Joe had a revolver, a knob kerry, a bayonet, a
bag of bombs and a pocket full of cartridges. To say nothing of the
Bowie knife. Never was such a formidable looking lot that went
forth to do battle with the enemy. If weapons of offence carried any
weight we should have at least taken Lille.
As the snow has been on the ground for about 6 weeks
we are supplied with white suits so as we won't be prominent against
the white background. And they are dead funny. Some of them are
exactly the same shape as those fleecy lacy things that are worn next
to my ladies legs. Namely "Combinations" and the boys look
dead funny roaming round in them. Then the other half had long night
gown affairs and it was hard to tell which was more idiotic. Fancy Joe
and "The Hun" and Rob parading round in drawers. Well about
I0pm we left our billets and wandered to Battalion Headquarters and
stood around in the cold until we all got well frozen. And then we got
issued with waistcoats and bombs. The weight of the bombs used to pull
on a mans neck and gave us all a crink in the neck. They put us in
somebody's dugout to spell for a couple of hours and they came home
while we were there and roared our heads off. About 3pm they lined us
up on the road and counted us and raddled us like sheep.
One Chap got a spent machine gun bullet in the foot
just sufficiently hard to put him out of action for half an hour. Hard
luck to be that close to a Blighty and miss out. We had every thing
that would give any information to the enemy taken from us and given
code marks. I had the Ace of Spades. Joe had the 2 of Spades. Bob had
the 8 of Hearts. Mop had the 9 of Hearts. Ace of Hearts was held by
Dennis. We got to the Point of Exit with a few minor mishaps and
climbed out to the Point of Assembly without any one annoying us. The
point of assembly was some dead ground about 40 Yards in front of our
wire. The covering patrols got out all right and everything was
working lovely. We were about 8 minutes ahead of Zero hour. We all got
our armaments in the Hun alert and all waiting for things to happen.
It is not necessary to state that our nerves were at concert pitch.
Old number 8 was all in one nice little bunch with McCulloch and I
just about our own length in the lead, all waiting and just seconds
before we expected anything it came. And this is how it came.
With a wail like a banshee it come tearing and
screaming through space hitting the ground about I00 yards on our
right: causing it (the ground) to rise and my head to go down and to
meet halfway. With all the damage to my face. That was apparently the
signal gun for just as it came to earth the air became filled with
devils. Devils large. Devils small and in hundreds: each had a
different moan and each was more blood curdling than the one before.
They dived into Fritz's trenches kicking up their heels as they went.
Ending up in a nerve wracking roar and spinning duckboards, earth and
anything that offered resistance skywards. Two things that I noticed
happened as soon as our barrage started. The first was that Fritz put
up heavy machine gun fire straight in front of us and kept it there.
The bullets kept ploughing up the ground not more than a mile above
our heads. The second was that my big bayonet man started to squirm.
First he squirmed backwards on his belly until his boots camp in
violent contact with Joes face. That was of course checkmate. So he
started off at a tangent and during the Strafing I think he must have
travelled miles. One thing that struck us as very funny was Fritz's
machine guns and fairy lights never stopped going through the whole
barrage. So it was useless trying to advance as it was as light as
day. And every one knows that it is impossible
to advance under well-trained machine gun fire. (Except
General Douglas Haig)
Old John May came galloping along on all fours and
conflabbed with Yellon and said the whole show was to be dropped as to
advance was out of the question. So there was no appeal from Chas or
Bert. I want to say this for the boys. They were all on tip toe as
soon as the curtain lifted from the Hun line and it only wanted the
word from the O.C. assault and they would have gone for those Huns and
he dammed to his machine guns. But as soon as the thing was off the
O.C. Raid rang for the artillery to stop. In the meantime Fritz had
got his artillery into motion and was Pasting hell out of our front
line and supports and was fishing for us out on Anybody's Land with
tit bits such as shrapnel. Whizz bangs. Pineapples and rifle grenades
and things of that sort. So you can imagine we had a very interesting
time as he got remarkably close at times. What with our own trench
mortars giving us a dry shampoo from behind and Fritz stirring us up
in front things were only middling. So much so that speaking for
myself I just lay there and wondered how many missed me before the
right one came along. But my luck was in. On comparing notes later
with Joe, Mahoney R and 'The Hun' I found that they had shared
my feelings. An soon as our artillery stopped so did his but not so
his machine guns. We got the order to withdraw and I got a move on and
got 8 back as I could see there was going to be some
delay. And there was. It was very amusing to watch everyone trying to
get back into their combinations which we had discarded on the Point
of Assembly. If you have ever tried to get into a pair of cold wet
clammy combinations when your hands are frozen, lying on your belly in
a foot of snow with several demented Huns shooting at you with machine
guns you will know all about it. If you haven't, don't, as you won't
notice the humour till afterwards: and a long time afterwards. All my
crowd got back safely.
And it was not until we got back to Battalion
Headquarters that I found out that poor old Dennis had got a severe
wound in the stomach. The bullet passed right through causing a nasty
wound. I don't think that it is serious enough to endanger his life
but it will keep him away from this old scrap for many a long month. Another
Hell Babe gone. They seem to he picking us out as Bob and I are
the only two originals left. Though
Dennis was lucky in comparison to Wise. He was killed Poor chap and
his mate, Rake was wounded. Well all the rest got back in all right
and went home. I had to walk all the way with my chin in the air as
the bally bomb bag had given me a severe crink in the neck. We all
slept next day and had some beer. But I think anyone who laved out No
Mans Land under a double barrage will join me in saying it is
"Non Bon". Well to sum up a disagreeable episode I will say
that I think the bitterest moment of most chaps lives was when they
were ordered to retire. So ended yesterday February
After a half genuine half sceptical lecture by the
Bull we were sent back to our respective Platoons. So ends the raid
school and here starts a new period namely fatigue in the trenches;
rotten, very. Joe Mop and Mahoney R point blank refuse to do anything
and I don't blame them much. I do as little as I possibly can. In the
Play hours the boys amuse themselves by drinking French beer and
loving the various Goddesses who dispense it. The time comes around
again that we should go in the trenches, again. Joe Hun Bob Pat Newman
and I were in the left sector. And it came our way to get our second
strafing under, entirely different conditions. About 9.I0pm and
Standing To expecting a slight fuss as our artillery had been nibbling
him all evening and the 4Ist on our right were raiding some time that
night. So we knew that there would be something doing and there was!
Our guns hit him in about a hundred places at once and of course he
ran about firing up his red retaliation lights at random: and then he
hurled things at us and to describe them is past my humble Pen. But
they jarred the earth, the air and the high heavens. We got as close
to the parapet as we could and waited. Bob took cover in the bomb
store until it dawned on him just what would happen if something hit
it. Then he shifted suddenly. I saw something flit by and suspecting
Huns went after him in the approved Hun alert that is rifle loaded and
bayonet fixed. Guess my relief when I found it was only Bob. Mop
was lying under a sheet of tin and a shell-shocked cat took a leap and
a spring fair on him and then there was a bully mix up. The Mop went
for that cat and the cat went for Mop and they fought it out well
until we straightened them out and shooed the cat away. The Mop was
still spitting out lots of fur. All the while the air was made
discordant by the bursting of things infernal. We were all standing
about with our eyes bulging and hearing a scream like a lost soul on
its way to hell we wheeled about just in time to see a crimson devil,
spitting sparks and heading for the horizon like a bat out of hell.
Wailing as it went. We looked at one another and each wondered if the
others had seen it or whether it was the result of the dry horrors.
But it was right. Finally we decided to drop it and things regained
Greatly to our relief Fritz got 3 Lewis gunners just
on the left of us. But I could have rather been where I was than in
the Huns lines. "Weary WilIy" used to come droning over from
Calais and hit the ground. When he landed there was no ground worth
I got a letter from young John Clarke. He is nicely
tucked up in Blighty. Lucky young buggar. Poor old Dennis hasn't been
able to write yet. We are all working with the Company this spell out
and it is bally rotten.
They did not pay us so
I don't have to chronicle any drunks.
Went in again and found there is a new scheme as far
as we bombers are concerned. We have Batteries mounted on all
communication trenches commanding all approaches and we man them and
in case we lost the front line we would paste the hell out of them as
they tried to come back. Well after a very exciting trip in and on our
last night on duty Joe, Mahoney R, The Hun and I were on a six gun
battery on Plank Avenue and were nicely asleep in our dugout. But I
must describe the dugout first. You went along a side trench climbed
up on top and then about four feet higher than anything else was the
dugout. Why the dickens some Hun gunner hadn't blown it to pieces long
since has got me.
The fire from his machine guns used to whistle into
it wholesale. Once you got into her she was bonny as far as bullets
and shrapnel but Minnies and that sort of thing no. Well to proceed.
About 4 am in the morning we were awakened by a hell of a strafing on
our own lines. And I can tell you it was some strafing too. We got our
boots on and he had lifted it back to the supports and of course we
got the full benefit of it. Shrapnel was bursting right over us and we
could hear wizz bangs tearing past at the rate of No Mans Business but
none got our possie, thank God. Well for Rob and I we were waiting
there at the mouth of the duggie and I bet we looked like one of
Bairnfathers sketches. As soon as there was a bit of a lull Bob ran
for it and about 2 seconds later Joe and I left the Possie and hit the
duckboards on our bellies at the same time and stood by. We
could count eight or ten Minnies in the air at any one time and as
many more leaving the guns. No doubt she was a love of a barrage.
We were in a position to judge as we were right in it. Joe took up a
Possie on a tin of detonators before he jirried just what he was
doing: it is not necessary to mention that he shifted lively. The
S.O.S. went up but we missed it : not that it mattered as were
standing to. Old Jamieson was there in the Hun alert like any other
We were in a hell of a mess as we could not find any
matches and we wanted a smoke more than Eve wanted that apple. Well to
keep going the Hun raided us, or tried to raid us as he didn't make a
success of it as the Lewis gunners Picked him up fast as he left his
own lines and shoved Christ out of him. About 6 got in to our trench
and went along about I2 yards then threw one bomb in a dugout that no
one was in and Lt Peterson shot one of them. They came on a place
where the, on chaps on guard had got their rifles smashed by the who
else. The horrible ones would not have got in or if so they would
certainly not have got out. 1 of them threw one
bomb in a Lewis Gun Position and killed Marshall the No.1. There was a
lot of casualties from the strafing. Poor old Sgt Bishop our India
rubber man got his lot that night. It a sight to go round the lines
next morning and see the dead lying about careless, some without heads
and others laying in several pieces. And the wounded coming down on
the stretchers groaning and not cheerful. No doubt this is a serious
business this War. No wonder chaps get shell shock.
Rob and I were lying in a fair little possie and one
went off on the Parapet and we were bally near suffocated with the
fumes. We were not sure whether we were gassed or not. In the morning
it was not a pleasant sight to see the faces of' those who had put in
the night in the front lines. They were all tight eyed and drawn. No
doubt they had a hell of a time. No one is afraid of the Hun man to
man or with the Hun in the majority, but intensive Artillery
bombardment shakes the nerves of the best. Especially the Minenwerfer.
They are rotten.
We went out and got paid and as I
have been due to get corporals pay since the I9/2/I7 I got 70
francs and that night we all went out, to ease our nerves a little.
Went round to where some Tommies were singing suggestive songs, and
Jack O'Brien and Thornie were full of fight and wanted to spill
someone's gore. But there nothing doing. The little barmaid was trying
to skull drag Joe and O'Brien out of the place but as she is onIy a
handful it is not necessary to say who didn't succeed. We all went
home singing a chorus of 'The Lady who was Unlucky in Matrimony".
I am holding down a Sergeant Major's
job this week, namely instructional work so I wander round of a
lunchtime and consume beer. The boys are up in the trenches mostly and
are very wrathful.
Poor old Colonel Paxton got sniped with a whizz
Now I have a very good joke and an "Affair de
Coeur" going at the same time. I have discovered my affinity and
am ruining myself buying batteries and globes as an excuse to make an
opening. I was going good on my second start and was just getting to
the right stage of sentimentality when Mum comes on the scene and then
goodbye to loves young dream. But Perseverance commands success. Joe
got very full one night and Mahoney and Morris got hoggishly drunk.
Mop went out to be sick and took his boots off and put them on his
hands and came as far as the door and then collapsed. Joe had to go
and salvage him. Mahoney R got his Irish blood up and wanted to fight
anyone or anything and as there was no one handy who wanted to be
massacred he started on me. So he had to be suppressed. Next morning
they looked like two jelly fish that had been stranded on the beach
and left there all day in the sun. Our week's so-called spell had
gone, likewise our money and we go back in the trenches tomorrow.
I forgot to mention that one day Thorne Newman
Morris and I were late on Parade. Old Sandy must be there that day so
I told the boys to go round by the big gate and mingle with the crowd
while I crawled through a hole in the wall and engaged Sandies
attention. I did too and he shouted hell out of me. He was livery that
day. We went back in the trenches on 2I/2/I7 and got a real idea of
what Artillery preparation means. They bombard hell out of Fritz every
night. And of course he throws some back. But it doesn't matter much
to me this time as I'm holding down the Sergeants job and it isn't
very exciting. I get a lot of abuse from the boys though and they make
rude remarks about my Pipe, which I might mention is S0ME pipe. Bob
and the Mop go up every evening, well, and come back every morning
shell-shocked. I won't be sorry when we go out.
On the night of the 26/2/I7 we had a bonny old
mix-up. I felt sorry for Fritzy that night. They strafed him, gassed
him, raided him, strafed him more and then re-raided him. There was
every kind of gun you could mention going that night. Then they had
the cheek to say our boys can't shoot. Shoot? They could split hairs.
Looking back to Armentieres you could see the orange glow from the
Batteries as they opened up and it was that continuous that you would
think it a beautiful sunrise. The air was that full of shells coming
and going that, to quote Joe, it only wanted about 6 more and they
would have jammed. Looking towards Lille you could see Hun and earth
going as near to heaven as they are ever likely to get.
They have a good system, our gunners. "Lazy
Lizzy" blows them out of their trenches and the I8 pounders
perforate them with shrapnel while they are up in the air. (Lazy
Lizzie was the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth, firing naval guns from
the English Channel. It was NOT the luxury liner).
Poor old Munnich, Daveson, King and
Lt. Lyons got killed.
One of our Covering Parties got bushed in No Mans
Land and instead of coming back to our Wiring Party they wandered over
to Fritz's Wiring Party and started to yarn. A soon as both sides
discovered their mistake they both left, hell for leather. In opposite
directions. One of our chaps, Doug Ellis had a
bad time getting back as our own machine gun and the Huns were after
McKay and Littleboy are
missing. They must have got skittled. Poor old Freddie Kingston of
Hughenden got his lot last night. They are shovelling men up this
morning and burying them in sandbags. Some, of the Tommie
R.E. gave up the ghost last night while they were putting over the
Saw Charlie Moss the other day, of Diamora. For once
I am abreast of the times and will be able to work in some of the side
issues. For instance. 3I3 Deckhardt. R. Now Deckhardt is full of
possibilities. A sturdy Russian PoIe about 5 foot 8 in height. And
strong as a Young Bull, bald and with a porcupine moustache of stunted
growth, with a sense of humour that is entirely original. He is a
fairly good example of a soldier as he is cautious, not lacking in
animal courage and always keeps his pouches full of cartridges, his
rifle spotlessly clean, his bayonet bright and a couple of bombs
handy. Can eat a tin of Bully Beef and biscuits 10 minutes previous to
a meal and not spoil his appetite thereby. Can eat cheese in unlimited
quantities, is as full of Bougary as an egg is of meat, has a fair
education, cannot pronounce the letter "V" but substitutes
"W" instead. As a forager he is without equal. He goes into
an empty house in search of firewood and comes out with a Piano or
anything else inflammable. Gets tucker in all sorts of places and will
carry it for miles. And that about sums up Deckhardt. (L/Cpl
Robert Deckhardt was KIA 12 Oct 1917. As his grave is unknown or
unmarked he is remembered at the Menin Gate Memorial) I intend
to work in a biography of every individual in the Platoon as she
landed in France. Some are not worth it but some are.
We go out tomorrow. If we live through the night,
and I have to raise the wind somewhere as I am stony. Aunt should have
written by this. I got a letter from Jim Smith, Ivy Johnson and Nancy
Bushell. Joe got a letter from his mistress in London and he was
perturbed thereby and I wonder why.
Old John Cooper dug me out the other with a letter.
He is "Tres Bon " and all in one piece; Miss Ivy Johnson,
Lower Clifton Terrace, Red Hill, Brisbane Queensland. We finished up
in the trenches and no one was sorry, as it has been a rough time.
They are going to smash us up now so we don't care a continental curse
what becomes of us as we point blank refuse to soldier up in the
Companies. We have alternate days on Working Parties and instructional
so that is not bad.
I got a letter from Aunt Sarah with a couple of
pounds in it so we will be able to tide ourselves along until payday
I saw and heard today in the '
ANZAC BULLETIN' that poor old Dennis had died of his wounds. The
vacant place left in our hearts by the old chaps passing could not
ache more had he been our brother but that is the fortune of war and
the will of God so we must suffer in silence. He died for his country
and I don't think there is a more noble death. We all want to say in
conclusion that the best chap, the staunchest friend that ever we had
Passed Away when John David Hume 802 died. (802
L/Cpl J D "Dennis" Hume is buried at Bailleul Communal
Cemetery Extension, France, so it appears that the writer was mistaken
in believing he had been sent to England).
When they drew the Pay they didn't draw enough and
consequently a few of the boys never got any. Morris and myself
amongst them. Joe and Mop and I went round and saw the red headed girl
in the shop opposite Juliettas and amused ourselves there for awhile.
Harry got a giggling fit and couldn't stop and that caused us a lot of
amusement. We bought sundry things and then some Pretty soap took my
eve but when she asked if I wanted to buy some I shuddered and assured
her that I didn't wash. She was unkind enough to suggest that perhaps
that was responsible for my pronounced style of Brunette Beauty.
She also allowed that Harry washed once in three
weeks and that the next turn was due. But she is a bonnie kid all the
same and she could have my tin of Bully Beef anytime she asked for it.
When you tell her anything she shrugs her shoulders and says "Ah,
oui" or else "That is Comique". I got another letter
from Ivy Davies and I have just found out that I have been addressing
her as Miss Johnson. Some mistake. We have discovered two nice new
girls namely Olga and Alice. They both dispense that glorious nectar.
They paraded us for a Picture show one-day and I was
in charge of the Platoon. Joe fell out first and then Mop. So I let
the Platoon go hang and fell out too. We found Jack O'Brien and went
round and had a few drinks in a place that does that sort of thing
after hours. When we worked it out we tried to get into another place.
Or al least 0'Brien did but the landlady who was rather corpulent
pushed him out with her belly. They went home and we wandered about
all evening and ate eggs and sausages and chips in the house of one
Adrienne. John Clarke is good till June so he tells me. Lucky dog. Rob
got a letter from the fair Blanche.
We got split up today so we are all accordingly
miserable. Joe got transferred forcibly into B Company. Rob, Mop,
Newman, 0'Brien, Hochings and myself went back to 10. We got split up
again. Bob and I going into 14 platoon the rest into the others. We
will all get together again though if we can use our heads half as
well an we think we can. I got a section. No.6. O'Brien got one too.
No.10 so that is fair so far. We analysed our feelings and I think the
nearest approach to it is how you feel when you hit a town that you
know not and are not known, with very little money. Went and met Joe
and had some drinks at the Divinities, Lucies and across the road
where some Tommies were singing smutty songs. They
say we ANZACs are rough and uncouth but the Tommy is far worse in that
respect as they swear and sing songs in public that most chaps
wouldn't sing amongst men. (In 1969/70 I
served with the Brits in Malaysia/Singapore as part of ANZUK and the
same was still true.)
Went up on a Working Party but didn't do any work.
We go in tomorrow and I have got rheumatism in the ankle and got it
bad. I have had it bad since we got that gruelling at '? . It might
develop into something worse if it keeps going. We go into the
trenches on the ??/2/17 and go into SVP in reserve and then got
hurried back to Japan Road.
Fritz was nibbling away at us all day with Minnies
and artillery and for some unknown reason our chaps let him alone. No
retaliation. Mahoney and I were in a possie and the wind from the
bursting shrapnel put our candle out so as it wasn't far we vacated.
And again about 10olclock. The Minnies were lobbing close around close
enough to shake the sides of the dugout in on us so we stuck it as
long as we could but on one seeming to land right on top of us we
left. And by bad luck or good luck just as you will it happened to be
the last so up went to bed again and had a fair sleep.
In the morning we had to go up and take charge of
the right Bombing Port for 24 hours. Non Bon. A man didn't realise
what a good thing the Battalion Bombers were until he gets back to the
Company. Fritz sent over some artillery and got
McMurten, Phillip and K? Poor devils. We had a good time in,
this time only for being messed about so. First the 36th relieved us
and that was a false alarm. Then the 35th took over and kept it.
I am an unlucky poor bugger. I
was swinging the lead for all it was worth and to get out of a night
in the trenches I volunteered for a work party: and found on reporting
to Lt. ? that it was a patrol that was wanted. So I fell in for it.
Got out safely and got paid that evening. I pulled out 70 francs and
spent the major portion of it that night, as it was Robin's birthday.
Saw Juliet, Divinity and all that crowd. There was a 5 franc mistake
between Divinity and I so that raised unpleasantness with the result
that a man doesn't feel like going in there again.
Pity, as she is a nice kidder. Went and saw the Blue
girl one evening and had a good yarn with her on various subjects. Got
tolerably full. So did the rest. Joe ran his bowie knife in his foot
and very near got a self-inflicted. He was not in the trenches this
time. We are having a good time out this time. I am on the
instructor's job still. Some of the boys got full the other night and
had the usual row and started that threadbare argument about
reinforcements going again until I was finally drawn into it. And the
result is that everyone is going about with heads held high and chest
out and not seeing one another when they pass close enough to rub
shoulders. It is childish - silly. But they get over it in time.
We played the 41st football today (13/3/17) and it
resembled water Polo more than football right between one of the
goalposts there was a lake of water and it ran back about 25 yards. We
played a good hard game taking everything into consideration. We
scored a try first half and they balanced it in the second so the game
finished up a draw. We were mud and slush from top to toe. Doug,
Edgar, Mahoney R. Sammy Page and Bluey Hodgetts were the most
conspicuous of our back-line. The rest of us just ploughed along. Lt
Fisher was our efficient referee.
I found a good sly-grog shop and stayed there all
one afternoon and night. There is also beer to be obtained at the
house of one Sophie. We leave tomorrow for some place so far unknown
and taking the rumours into account. "Bite Bon Jean's" and
Blighty are hourly occurrences. Had a letter from John Cooper today.
He's still 'Tres Bon'. We are billeted in an old cotton mill in the
Rue de la Paix. Here are some of the names. Rue Nationale. Rue Marle.
The convent at Notre Dame. The blue blind factory and sundry other
places. Armentieres is as we found it a large town, very war torn in
places with cramped narrow, cobbled streets. A more or less homogenous
population with a large proportion of German sympathisers. They are
mercenary, dirty and dishonest. That is of course with the exception
of some. Including Juliette. Darkie. Divinity. Lucy. Olga. Alice. My
little coffee shop. Alice of Steinwick and a few others that I cannot
They have all treated us very well and we will be
sorry in a mild way to leave them. We are all broke so I borrowed 10
francs at 50% interest till Payday. The only risk the moneylender runs
is my early demise. We went and did the did familiar round as we have
our walking orders in the morning. 15/3/17 get up pretty early, have
breakfast and go round to Victor Hugo, dump load of instructional
stuff on the transport, also our packs, and start for ? just over the
bridge from Armentieres.
We seem to be relieving New Zealanders. In the
Ploegsteert living in little wooden huts. Non Bon after the
spacious places that we are used to. Tried to raise the wind but
couldn't do it so told Joe and the boys it was an individual effort.
So I went out to see what I could do, met Brev and as he had 7 &
half francs we decided to blow it. Went into several Places, and in
the 1 place there was 2 fair girls. So we tarried for a while and
yarned to them. One is the eternal Julie and wonder of wonders the
other has the unusual name of Madeline. I got talking sweet nothings
to her and she seemed to like it: I asked her if it would be possible
to see her after the place closed. She assured me that it could not be
did on account of Mama but if I would meet her at a place she named at
7 next morning we would, to use her expression, make arrangements.
Next morning the Gods were against me as I could not get away before
7.30 so I missed her and not having any money I could not get back to
exploit a seeming success.
We cannot raise any money. Bob Joe and Mop aren't up
to it as financiers so we will have to wait till Payday. We have been
up in the new section on fatigues for several days now and it is
pretty rotten. The trenches are up to mud. They are falling to pieces
with senile decay. Haven't had any mail for ages. Don't know why. The
Revolution in Russia is in full blast and things are a bit mixed.
Bapaume is about to fall. There is likely to be a re-election in
England. The 44th raided and got cut to pieces. That is about all the
news I can think of only that the 17th of Eirland was the only night I
went to bed without booze. Today I close this old book.
Today is Sunday 18/3/17 and so ends book one on the
doings of drunks. So in the parlance of the barmaids I will end with
"8 o'clock. Please finish beer. Na phoo"
Chas Harris. B (and D) Coy. 19/3/1917