Half morning we parade for rifle inspection. At 3:50 pm we leave Cappy for the trenches again. As we pass thro’ Eclusier we throw off our packs and some of our ammunition. We enter the trenches to relieve the Royal Brigade. We leave the trenches again for “Eclusier” Village the “Rat Pit” or “Rat Hole”. Slept a fairly good night with occasional rat bites. Woke up very tired.
Archives for September 2015
A cold wet and miserable morning. And still raining. Our rifles are clogged up with mud. Get to work to make an improvised shelter. We have been in the open trench two days two nights no shelter. At 9 am the Germans shell us with heavy guns. The Huns commence again with trench mortars and we reply. Some note paper comes to me when rations arrive from Headquarters. Welcome. I’ve none. We are on Bully Beef and biscuits. I make some cocoa by putting some fat in a can with a piece of rag, then light it placing the canteen over it. Our hard biscuits are covered with mud, therefore – gritty. Rats!!! Lots of them. The fellows are wallowing in mud and have not the heart to amend difficulties. 3 pm the Huns are still busy shelling and bombing us. The King’s Royal Rifles have lost heavily. Commences to rain heavily at 5 pm and kept up all night. We “stand to” in full marching kit from 5 to 7 pm. Orders come up for us to be relieved at 8 pm but the relief does not appear till 9:30 pm. Commence march thro’ narrow trenches wet, muddy and slippery and raining hard. We are soaked to the skin. We go down the road slipping and sliding all over the place. A more weary tired and miserable lot of men could not be found. We pass thro’ “Eclusier” to Cappy where we stay in billets for the night. A ration of 2 oz of rum is given to the men and we retire to rest at 12:30 midnight.
I’m on sentry at 12 to 1 pm. Lots of sniping. It rains during the afternoon and all night. About 6 pm the Germans give us a shower of bombs and we reply with our trench mortars. ‘Tis raining hard. A regular battle is raging. We are wet and covered all over in wet slimy mud. Rifle choked. The engagement dies down. I am on sentry with Private Dermot at 2:54 am. Snipers very busy and accurate. I go along ammunition trench about a mile long – alone – to report message to Headquarters.
*Ross Rifle – The Ross Rifle was a bolt-action rifle produced in Canada and used by Canadian troops during WWI. Before the war the Ross Rifle was highly successful in target shooting. However it was poorly suited for trench warfare as it was easily jammed by mud and dirt. Many Canadian troops preferred the Lee Enfield rifle that was becoming standard across the British Empire, often taking the rifles from British casualties. In July of 1916 the replacement of all Ross rifles with Lee Enfields was ordered, though some snipers continued to use the Ross rifle due to its exceptional accuracy at long ranges.
Released at 5:30 am and back to the dugout for a sleep. Cannot sleep, too much noise, uncomfortable bed and wet with previous night’s rain. Rations and warm tea come to us at 11 am – welcome!! Our companions – rats or mice. Frogs and worms with the attendant mud.
Rifle inspection at 9. Spent rest of day talking to French soldiers and bathing in Somme Canal. At 9:30 pm a sudden order comes from Head Quarters to pack up immediately for the trenches. All is hurry and scurry but we only took 5 minutes to “fall in”. I had a big mail of parcels and papers etc, heavy laden. On the march at 8 pm over wet soggy and muddy ground. The flares of the Germans make the scene weird. Our big guns make devilish noise. Landed in trench and “put up” at a dugout, very cleverly made – dry. All the “Old Pats” are put on sentry go. I go on sentry with Private Creed and stay from 9 pm till 5:30 am. A German sniper has this spot for a target as he makes it very uncomfortable for both of us.
Rifle inspection at 9 am. Major Grey taken over Command of No. 4 Company. We parade at 5:10 pm in full marching order for a march to the support trenches in a pouring rain. Left Froissy at 5:30 for Cappy. Roads muddy and full of pools of water. Troops cursing and very miserable, wet through, slipping and sliding from side to side. Arrived at Eclusier Sur-Somme about 8:20 pm –and RATS and fleas. Consigned to Billets – tumble down barns not fit for cattle. Never in all my life have I seen such a quantity (and so large, being nearly size of fox terriers) of rats. When lights were extinguished the rats swarmed over the troops. Sleep was impossible. So a party of us went rat hunting. Kings Royal Rifles are in the trenches. Rain ceased during the morning of the 26th.
Heavy thunderstorm last night. Two parades today – skirmishing. Heavy bombarding all along the line.
Sleeping out. We hear the Germans[sic] have taken Vilna in Russia. Try fishing in River Somme. No luck.
Two more parades: one a “kit inspection”!! The other skirmishing absolutely ridiculous! Watched a German Aeroplane attacked by our airmen, fired at by shells. Our airmen riddled him with a machine gun and he descended within our lines. Three of our ‘planes surrounded him. I take a swim in the Somme River and Canal. Our maxim gun section go to trenches
*Kit inspection – Inspection of a soldiers “kit” or military belongings and uniform. The kit was supposed to be arranged in a specific way for inspection while the soldier stood next to the kit.
To see Commanding Sergeant Major Hetherington of the King’s Royal Rifles at 7 am and had breakfast with him. Paraded for Platoon drill 1 mile back of firing line!!! Received 2 parcels one from Miss Janet Ansill of Ashford and the other from Mrs Mia Draycot of Rothley. Greatly appreciated by myself and the boys. Tried to catch fish in River Somme – “nothing doing” they think we are German spies perhaps. Lots of bombarding and rifle fire.