Diary Four - April 1916
Diary - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5
March April May June July August
Marseilles - Harve - Western Front
1st April 1916
Arrived in Camp at 06.30. Exercising most of the day. At night Chas and myself had our best night for quite 18 months. Visited the Home of Mr Beckell, Villa Virginia, No 8 Rue Marie Currie. Had a most enjoyable evening and met real English people there. Appreciated it incredibly. Danced and talked up till about 2.30 am and then got back to camp.

2nd April 1916
Sunday again, and most enjoyable. Quiet day in Camp. Chas and myself got leave and went to keep an appointment with one of the many English friends we met last evening. Met the party at 2 pm and went out to their place and played tennis all afternoon. Managed to strike form at once and gave a fairly good account of myself. Big beano at night. Ask us who 'Maude' is. Wouldn't mind a month here. Got home at 06.15

3rd April 1916
Randall, Chas and myself left camp at 10 am and visited friends in the City. Went out to lunch then got a motor launch and saw Marseilles from the water front. Got back to the wharf at 5 pm. Reported to camp and had dinner at 8. Another beano. Who's Puppett.

4 April 1916
Out exercising horses all morning. Went out into an outskirts of the City. The houses are real palaces and nearly every one has magnificent grounds. Slept during the afternoon. Went into the City at 8 pm in charge of a Patrol of 28 men and 4 NCOs. Had a great time. 'Supper' with A.P.M. Got back to camp at 12 pm. Great City believe me.

5th April 1916
On leave from 10 am with Chas. Went by train and visited No 7 Hangar Ordinance Depot. Met one of the chaps who was at Tennis last Sunday and went to afternoon tea with him. Dinner at Le Novelty Bar. Lost Chas? Very early to bed 11 pm The earliest since arriving in Marseilles.

6th April 1916
Raining like Mad. Got orders at 10.30. Packed and left Camp Fournier at 7 pm. Entrained at 9.30. Visited Maude, and had dinner at her place. Picked Randall up there then accompanied by Lula and Maude we travelled to the station. Left there at 11.15 pm. Up to our knees in mud. Awful sorry to leave.

7th April 1916
Our first stop at Orange after travelling all night. Stopped at Marcon at 2.15. This is a lovely trip. The Major, Chas and self in a very cosy sleeping car. Travelling through magnificent country. Stopped briefly and fed horses at night. Managed to supplement ourselves. Champagne etc. Slept like a log all night.

8th April 1916
Travelling all day. Gee, this France is beautiful. Passed through the Champagne District this afternoon. Chas being in charge of the commissariat Department procured drinkables and cooked pheasant. Passed Paris about 3.30 but did not see much of the city. Went round through the outskirts. This country is the most beautiful I've yet seen. On the whole it seems to be one big beautiful garden. Everywhere the troops either travelling or massing on the railway stations, or doing sentry go on roads, bridges or railways. Every station we've been through we've been cheered and farewells waved from everywhere. The French people seem to be very much attracted to our boys and they likewise to them. Expect to reach our destination (Le Havre) early tomorrow morning. Bitterly cold tonight. Early to bunk.


As a troop train carrying Australian soldiers from Marseilles to Le Havre makes a rest stop, the soldiers have disembarked to stretch their legs on the tracks beside the train, rest on the embankment (right) or pick wildflowers to decorate the train carriages.

Le Havre

9th April 1916
Arrived at Havre at 2 pm today. Cold, that's flattering it. Great station here. Must be about 400 yards long. Fell out and detrained horses and stores. Left the station at 5 am and walked 6 ½ miles to camp. No 2 (Sanvic). There are quite a number of batteries waiting here. Amongst them are several of my old chums from the 1st Bde. Working like a beggar all day. Getting lines down and picketing horses and a hundred and one other things which behove a Bty Orderly Officer. Chas and myself went into the City for dinner about 7 o'clock. Give me Marseilles before this City. Although this is rather pretty and well laid out; Marseilles for preference every time. Hunted all round the place in hopes of getting a bath but our luck must have been out. The City is full of troops representing all the Allies. At the Hotel where we dined were several Belgian and French officers in unlimited quantities.

10th April 1916
Randall and the Major at ordinance all day seeing to our guns, waggons and general equipment. Quite a pleasant day today. More like the South of France. Had a view of a French dirigible in flight. Came round over our lines. Randall, Chas, and self went into town tonight, after the same old complaints, a bath and dinner. Got the latter but again missed the former. Went to a music-hall later. Ask Chas? Cold as Charity tonight.

11th April 1916
Raining like mad. Went into ordinance this morning at 8.30 to draw our guns etc. Got back to camp at 1.30. Had to bring the Battery and B.A.C. out myself. Worked it out by algebra and a few other things. Got wet through of course. We have a great mess room here. In reality is a hay loft converted. Anyhow it can boast a stove, which make's up for a lot of things.

12th April 1916
BOO today. Been out in the rain all day. Busy equipping etc. Mud up to your knees. Still, I'd sooner that than sand. Packed up this afternoon. Believe we leave here within the next 36 hours. Hope so.

13th April 1916
Weather a slight improvement, no rain, but blowing a cold gale. 1st Brigade arrived last night. Joined up with us this morning. Went into the City this morning for a bath. Got it. Marching orders to hand. Left camp at 5.30 pm and got down to entraining station at 4. Started entraining at 7.30 finished at a quarter to nine. Randall a I went into the City and had dinner, then came back and had supper with the major and RTO. Left Le Havre at 10 pm. Got a cosy compartment.


A view of the village of Borre, in Northern France, showing the church in the centre, and the house to the right which was used as 1st Brigade Headquarters.

14th April 1916
Travelling all night and still at it. Pulled up at Auzáville-en-Argonne at 7.30. Watered and fed the horses. Struck 2 carriages of Australian nurses on a side line, who are going to work near the firing line. We are now in the War Zone. Every cottage along the line is a billet for troops. Everywhere are French soldiers, a great number of them working in the fields with the crops. Arrived at our destination Borre and packed 8 mules along a road knee deep in mud. Left the station at 8 pm and got out to our billet at 10.30. We are quartered in a French farmhouse, from which the sound of the guns are quite audible, and all night long the sky is brightened by their flashes. The room where I am writing this was once the HQ of some German troops who were quartered here. The daughter of the house speaks English and she has been telling us of the fighting which took place about here after Mons. Bitterly cold and raining.

15th April 1916
Got to bed sometime this morning. Slept the sleep of the just. In a bed too. Our boys are quite comfortably quartered on a barn feet deep in snow while the 4 dorgs have beds and bedrooms. This is undoubtedly the coldest thing I've yet struck. This morning it snowed and to cap the lot there's a knife-like gale blowing at about 40 knots per hour; which tickles you up some believe me. Raining most of the day, snowing the rest. Towards evening the wind abated and it stopped snowing and many other things, in fact it behaved itself so well that 2 Taubes came over and attacked our stationary observing balloon. Our planes went up and there was skin and hair flying. The Taubes dropped several bombs which were ineffective while our anti-aircraft guns made the sky hideous with puff of shrapnel. The Taubes soon tired however and escaped in a mist. Give us quite an appetite for dinner. Living like a fighting cock and feeling awfully fit and well.

16th April 1916
Glorious day today. It can be fine here sometimes. Went out on Beauty today. Glorious riding about the country lanes. All night long our "heavies" have been pasting things up-ahead. One continual roar of artillery all night. Received two letters from Annie today. By the way I wrote to several people I used to know, last evening. Home, Horsie, "Undoona" Krean, and 48 M.R. Chas came along from H.Q. today. Faulkner dug up a farmhouse where you can get Champagne for 5 Francs a bottle. Of course we didn't spend any Francs. Orders to hand tonight for the Major. Myself with 30 men to go into the firing line tomorrow. Have been getting maps and gen prepared in readiness to move off. Look out somebody.

Onto the Firing Line

17th April 1916 (Pailly our la Lys)
Raining like charity. Left Borre at 10 a.m. Boarded a motor transport with 7 others set out the 12 mile ride to the firing line. Got here about 12 a.m. after the "muddiest" and "jolliest" ride I've had and I've been for quite a few. Its just like being at war again here. Something that I used to be quite used to once upon a time. At present the Major and I are quartered in some French homestead just about 1000 yds from the Bty pos. [Battalion position]. Believe we take over tomorrow. Randall and Faulkner are behind in Borre while we are here with 4 complete gun detachments. Met two genuine Aus. Officers who have been trying to break their respective necks to make us comfortable. Our "heavies" have just been having an evenings hate with somebody up ahead using 9.2 and 6 in. Hows [Howitzers]. My batman was kind enough to lose my bed and clothing today so here's for a cold night.

18th April 1916
Sundry "hates" all day. Spent a most enjoyable night last night I don' think. Almost froze. Managed to "thaw" about 8 a.m. today. The Major and I reported to 2nd Div B.H.Q. at 10.30 and met and had lunch with an old acquaintance Col. Loyde who used to be Adj. 1st F.A. Bde. Had a long yarn to him about Helles while settling in his cosy quarters. We had to ride up from here, don't think we could have walked it. Mud's too thick. Had lunch with Major Williams and Lt. McPherson of the 15th Bty. We take over from them tomorrow. In the afternoon went up to the gun position and got the "hang" of things there. Boarded a horse and got back here again at 4.30. Gee this is a wet, cold show. Rain, mud everywhere and gee isn't it hot? Our friends are playing rather an expensive game just now. They're firing combustible shells at our billets and setting fire to the same. Jove, but their artillery are accurate. Never seem to miss. The owner of the house we are at present quartered in was taken prison by the Germans last Sept 12 months. All this place was in German hands.

19th April 1916
Rec. orders from the Major to report at once. The 15th Bty kindly supplied me with a horse which, if everything in this world was in its proper place, would figure in a wild west buck jumping show. Had a most amusing ride. The orderly with me turned out to be a chap Hollis that I dined with at the show ground in Sydney just prior to leaving Aus. Reported to the Major and 'ate' first of all. Spent the afternoon cruising about the trenches with Major Williams and Capt. Morris. Visited our OP. Two are in ruined houses and one up a tree. On our way round noticed plenty of "houses" which must have looked very pretty once least say so now. The trenches are thick with mud and if you chance to slip off the boards you will have a bath in at least 2 ft of water. Sundry artillery duels the order of the day with machine guns chipping in at night. Morris and I managed to get hold of a bottle of Cham tonight. Great night cap in this climate.

20th April 1916
Still raining. This morning the Major and I overslept our respective selves. Must have been the lobsters. Studying maps etc. all morning. This afternoon Capt. Morris and myself went up to the trenches with the idea of visiting our OP. Just got up near there and discovered that our friends were making a nuisance of themselves by shelling it like blazes, so just made ourselves comfortable and watched them. They sent over about 150 shells from 77 mm 4.2 to 5.9 H.E. Made an awful mess of it. Tomorrow we have got to go and look for another one somewhere. Visited the 13th Battery later. This particular Bty has been shelled out twice within the last few days. There are about 100 shell-holes around their last position. They're regular dorgs these Huns when they get going. Machine guns busy on our own sector. Heavy firing towards Armentieres.

Return to Borre

21st April 1916
This morning got orders to go back to Borre on duty. Left base at 9.30 walked to Outtersteene (about 6 miles), boarded a goods train and got out at Hazebrouck and walked from there to Borre. Saw Chas who is looking anything but well. Left on the return journey in the midst of pouring rain at 4.30. Rode Phyllis down to the station. Boarded a passenger train at 6.30 and arrived in Steenwerck at 7.15. Got hold of some Tomey Ambulance Sergt and after Sunday drinks bribed him into getting a motor waggon and running me part of the way home. Got home at 10 pm wet through.

22nd April 1916
Ordered to go with the Adjutant to get the rest of our Bty billeted in Gestaves. Raining like old nick. Got a horse from the 15 Bty and "used it". Billeted the Battery all right and got home at 6 p.m. Chas has gone into hospital.

23rd April 1916 (Easter Sunday)
Up with the larks this morning. The Major and self went up to the OP. and watched a bit of "hate" on our friends trenches. Afterwards, not to be done out of any fun they opened on to ours, and we got the "overs". Tons of aeroplane scraps during the day. A plane has hardly time to get up nowadays before it's got about 30 or 40 shrapnel and stie puffs around it. We brought down one of theirs yesterday and today they equalised the score by winging one of ours. This afternoon Major and myself rode into Le Pailly after pay and a few other things. Successful thank heaven. Got back at 5.30pm. At present am up at Kalallin at 2. G.A.O. for the 14 and 15 Btys. Had quite a pleasant time this evening so far. At present there's a Rosch M.G. making a fine target of this old house. Awfully interfering "cuss". Doing no earthly good but riddling the tiles on the roof, making an awful dust. The first really fine day since I've been in France.

24th April 1916 (Easter Monday)
Another fine day. Ye gods. Got down to the pay Bty at 8.30 had breakfast and look over my guns and store from the 15th Bty and put my own gun's crews on them. This afternoon located a new OP. and spent several hours mapping out a scheme whereby we can make it habitable. Its in an old ruined farmhouse about 300 yds in rear of our first line trench and its shelled out of all recognition of a house. This afternoon we had our first "hate". Stuck in about a dozen rounds for luck. Our anti-aircraft guns brought down a Taube today. Sunday artillery duels the order of the day otherwise quiet. Its just 12 months back when we were all anxiously waiting for our first scrap, and here now after one year of scrapping we are considered quite veteran soldiers.

25th April 1916 (Anzac Day)
Just 12 months ago today since I had my first baptism of fire at sea. Was on board the S.S. Indian then lying off Anzac waiting to land. Another glorious day today. This morning had to go to Bac St Maurit to locate a temporary waggon line for our Battery. Did so. Was also out after the Field Cashier, missed him but found Chas who had just come out of Hospital, and was looking for H.Q. Had dinner together at our billet, and then went up to our OP. and look over from MacPherson of the 15th Bty. Sundry artillery "hates". We fired on one battery and shut them up with 16 rounds. Came down to our billet at 6.30. Chas came to dinner. Cracked a bottle with the Major and Chas to celebrate the "Day" and came up here to Battalion H.Q. Thank someone I am not 6 ft long.

26th April 1916
Left Batt H.Q. at something to 7. Got to David House and had breakfast. Afterwards went up to our forward OP. Was employed making ourselves comfortable when our friends started throwing 5.9s into us so we had to get out. They fired 60 rounds into it and then shut up. Blew things about a bit but I can still use it as an OP. Got back to the Bty on being relieved by the Major and went down to Bue Sis-nair and guided the Bty into their new W.L. Got back to the Bty at 9.30. Coming home "they" threw some of their gas shells about. This gas makes your eyes water and smart like one thing. The appearance of my eyes this morning was such as would suggest that I had a glorious beano, or night out. Orders through that Randall has been transferred from our Bty. Our next officer is Lt. Richardson from the 7th.

27th April 1916
Glorious day again. Been working like a beggar all day. Down at the waggon line all the morning straightening things out. Up at the Bty all afternoon. Missed a trip to England today by just a hairs-breadth. Anyhow that will keep. Faulkner came up today which relieves me somewhat. Tonight Chas, Adj. and CO had just finished a little "stunt" and were just preparing for bunk when we got the SOS signal from the front line, signalling gas attack. Donned our gas helmet and got into action in no time and strafed for an hour and a half. Have just come in from our stint. The wind has changed so I reckon "they" will have to don their gas bags. Everything perfectly quiet save for an occasional burst of machine gun fire. Had a bath.

28th April 1916
Chas and myself went for a short cruise this morning around Fleurbaix. Found something. Down at waggon line in the afternoon checking gun stores etc. Have to take my two guns somewhere near Armentieres tonight. Left W.L. at 7 got to 12 Bty position when we had a gas attack signalled. Turned out to be only a scare. Picked up an officer of the 12th who guided us to our rendezvous where I handed over guns etc. Got back to Fleurbaix at 11.45 p.m. Got two letters. My mail has gone mad and got lost somewhere.


Fleurbaix battle front

29th April 1916
Up at OP. all morning, but not in it all the time. Got shelled out of the forward OP. so went back to the reserve D.O (dug out) and got shelled out of that. So spent a comfortable 2 hours peaking about the trenches while "they" carried on and amused themselves. My Sergt Brown and self nearly got buried by the roof and a few beams, I don't mind how many shells they throw about, but I bar sand bags. Reported to Batt H.Q. tonight.

30th April 1916
Got down to the Bty from B.H.Q. at 9 a.m. Have been working like a beggar all day. Visited waggon line this afternoon. Tonight at 7 p.m. "they" opened up on one of our heavy batteries and pushed out about 50 5.9s. Made an awful mess of things but didn't get the guns. Last night "they" made an attack north of Armentieres preceded by a gas stunt but gained nothing. Artillery hates all day.

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