Officer in Waiting
4 May - 12 June
The Somme Again
13 June - 24 August
Dompiere & Mont St. Quentin
25 August - 6 September
7 September - 10 November
11 November - 28 Feb 1919
The WWI diary of Percy Smythe was transcribed by his daughter Betty Smythe.
Officer in Waiting
Saturday, 4th. This morning Mrs. Morgan brought me a couple of letters from Dorothy, which I had the pleasure of reading in bed. One of them was readdressed from Cambridge. The other was addressed here and contained a sweet little pressed spray of primroses, and congratulations for having passed the exam.
It turned out a fine day today, in spite of the rain last night. Looked through my belongings and took out a couple of diaries and other things I wanted, besides an account of life on Gallipoli that Bert had once started to write.
Had breakfast, packed up, and left soon after 11a.m. Went in to Waterloo, left my coat and bundle at the station, went across to Liverpool St., got pack and bicycle, and had to ride as far as the Bank, because they could not take the bike on the tube.
It was quarter past one when I got back to Waterloo, so missed the 1p.m.train, and the next was not till 2.15p.m. Dorrie was to meet me by the former, and I was sad to think the dear little girl would be disappointed.
Had dinner at the Union Jack Club and caught the next train, arriving at Andover about quarter to five. It was a glorious spring afternoon. Left my things at Burly's and went up town. Dorrie was not at the lower shop, so went up to the other one in High St. The dear little girl was there, looking very sweet in a neat grey blouse, and it gave me a sudden thrill of joy at first sight of her dear face. She had been up to meet me by the earlier train, and was naturally disappointed that I did not come.
Mr. Banks came into the shop and said Dorrie might go out for an hour, so we went for a happy walk together in the calm beautiful evening. It was good to be together again, and all the world seemed bright and full of joy. Ah, what a grand thing it is to have such a dear friend to love and be loved by. If only there were no parting or absence ---- but such things must needs be in war time.
After Dorrie went in to work again, I went to a tea-shop for tea. Must economise stringently, in order to save as much as possible towards buying the engagement ring that my little girl and I are so patiently waiting for.
Met Dorrie again at nine o'clock, when she left work, and we strolled around by the Ladies' Walk, happy in each other's company once again. It was after ten when we arrived back, and parted for the evening. Could not go to the dear girl's home now, her father is very obstinate in his opposition to our engagement, and I guess he does not want to see me in his house.
Sunday, 5th. It is just a year today since our dear old Bert was called to the Great Beyond.
Breakfast at the hotel, and went up to Old Winton Road soon after ten. Met Fred Marshall. He was passing through Andover on duty, and, not knowing where Beatrice lived, had called in at Dorrie's place and asked for me. Mr. Jewell, who came to the door, looked savage and said I wasn't there. Fred then asked for Dorrie, and was promptly told that she was upstairs, dressing. He came away then, with the opinion that Mr. Jewell was "an old crank".
A little later Dorrie and Beatrice came along, and we all strolled out to Bury Ring. It was a glorious spring morning, the sun spreading his bright warm rays generously over the fresh green landscape with its many varied shades of colour, the dark sombre green of pine and fir trees mingling pleasantly with the light shimmering emerald of other trees, and the warm brown earth in ploughed fields forming a pleasing contrast to the prevailing colour in the surrounding grassy meadows.
We remained there a while, at the Ring, and then strolled back for dinner, Fred and I going down to Burly's. He had to leave by the 1.38 p.m. train to go back to Warminster. Beatrice and Dorrie met us at the station, and after Fred had left, the three of us walked out along the Weyhill road, and rested on the straw by a haystack in a field near by. The sky clouded over during the afternoon, and a few drops of rain began to fall before we got back.
Went to Burly's for tea, and then it came on to rain persistently. Met Dorrie and Beatrice at the corner of Old Winton Road, and we came down to chapel. We were walking along arm-in-arm when the M.P. corporal, an ultra officious bullying sort of fellow, strode over towards us, and, thinking he was going to demand my pass, I said, "Do you want to see my pass?" but he only said, in a voice that a cross-grained butcher might use to a thieving dog, "You behave yourself in a proper manner!"
For a moment or two I was too surprised to speak, but then said, "Mind your own business!" and went and took Dorrie's arm again. A few seconds later, the bully came tearing after us, with the snarling demand, "Are you going to do what you're told!"
"No", I replied, "and if you want my name and address you can have it. I've met your sort before, but never in France!" and taking the pay-book out of my pocket I handed it to him to take the particulars from. He did so, making some remarks to justify himself, but I only gave him some more of my sarcasm. His interference was purely out of priggishness, and shows what cads some of these military police are.
It was raining again when we came out of chapel, so we just walked down to the railway bridge near the Junction Railway Station, and stayed there a little while before going home. My poor little girl was inclined to be angry with her father for his stupid opposition, which keeps me away from her home. Well, we cannot expect everything to go smoothly, and anyway it is sure to come all right in the end.
Monday, 6th. Had a sixpenny breakfast at King's, and then called in at the shop for awhile. Strolled up through the Recreation Park, also through the Church Grounds, which are very pretty. Lots of the tombstones are so old that the inscriptions have entirely disappeared and, of those which are legible, many date back several hundred years.
Met Dorrie at the shop at twelve, and after she had had dinner we went for a little stroll together before she returned to work. Went to the hotel for dinner, and afterwards called in at the shop for a while.
Commenced making a sketch of the church from near the rear gate, from which it looks very well, being all angles and corners.
Called for Dorrie at half-past four, and we took a stroll up to the Recreation Ground during the half-hour she had off for tea. Poor little girl, she seemed to feel very disgusted with her father because of his unreasonable attitude towards me.
Had tea at a tea-shop, and continued sketch of church. My little girl could not get off till 8 o'clock, and then we went for a happy walk together, enjoying each other's company, though Dorrie was inclined to be sad on account of the one great obstacle that tends to mar our happiness.
Tuesday, 7th. Raining this morning. Slept in till about ten, and went without breakfast. Dorrie and I went for a short walk before she went in to work after dinner.
Came back to Burly's for dinner. It has turned out quite a wet miserable day, so could not continue sketch of church. Dorrie and I had tea together in at Fry's, and when she left work at eight we went to the pictures and enjoyed a very pleasant evening there, although the films were rather tame. We have agreed to cycle to Salisbury tomorrow and visit Bessie Ham if the weather is fine, but it looks rather unpromising tonight.
Wednesday, 8th. Took my bike and met Dorrie a little after nine near town station. Mr. Banks had kindly let her have the morning off so that we could make a day of it. Dorrie brought me a letter that had come for me from Mrs. Morgan, saying that her daughter had come to stay for a week.
A few drops of rain were falling as we set off for Salisbury, but it did not last long, the clouds soon clearing away and leaving a bright sunny sky. The road was good, and a nice cool breeze was blowing, making it a very enjoyable ride, especially with such charming company as my dear little girl. The country we passed through looked very pretty in its bright spring freshness, with its hills and woods, its copses and hedges.
About 11 o'clock, crossing the summit of a spur, we came in view of the city of Salisbury, spread out on the plain below, the tall cathedral spire standing up magnificently above its surroundings. A little later we rode into the city, and after riding round the town a bit, we made enquiries and found where Mrs. Wordsworth lived.
Bessie seemed very pleased to see us, and she took us in and made us have some tea and bread and butter, after which the three of us strolled up the town and had a look around. We dined at a restaurant, and then .......... her to be.
Thursday, 9th. Continued sketch of church all day. Met Dorrie at the shop at twelve, and after she had had dinner we spent the remainder of her dinner-hour in the Recreation Grounds.
In the tea-hour we looked through the church and grounds, which were sweetly pretty, everything green with the freshness of spring.
Dorrie was able to get off at six, and we cycled out to Weyhill, left the machines at Miles' Hotel, and walked down to Juniper, dear old Juniper, where we spent so many happy hours last summer. The grounds looked very beautiful now, in their summer grandeur of brilliant foliage. We strolled along to the stile where we used to go, and rested there for some time. It was a calm and beautiful evening, and we were very happy together. My little girl's face was a picture of blushes, and she was very kind and loving. Time slipped away pleasantly and quickly, and all too soon we had to think about leaving. It was getting dark when we came away, and then we had a very pleasant ride back to Andover in the cool evening air. Having no lamps we had to walk through the town, and we talked about various personal matters and exchanged some vital confidences and admissions. It has been a very, very happy evening, and rather compensated for yesterday.
Friday, 10th. Continued sketch of church today. Got through the pencilling and commenced inking it in. Got the trees and foliage done all right, but rather spoilt it when I started on the building, through not taking enough pains with it.
Met Dorrie in the lunch-hour, and we went to the Recreation Ground after she had had dinner. We also strolled up there in the tea-hour.
Had tea at a tea-shop and then went for a ride around through Abbots Ann, which is a sweet little old village consisting of a small cluster of old stone cottages with thatched roofs.
When Dorrie left work at eight, we went for a stroll around by Ladies' Walk together. It was not so warm this evening, a cool breeze driving away the sultriness of the day. When we got back we met Miss Smith, and asked her to come with us to Bury Ring on Sunday morning.
Saturday, 11th. Continued inking in sketch of church this morning. Went for a short walk with Dorrie in the lunch hour. Finished the sketch of the Cherryhinton church this afternoon, by adding the flagstaff and weathervane, the trees and some clouds.
Had tea with my little girl at a tea-shop, and afterwards wrote her a letter, so that she would get the usual Sunday-morning missive. It will be a little surprise for her tomorrow.
Met the dear little girl at the shop at nine o'clock, and we went for a nice happy walk together, but could not stay out long as it was so late when Dorrie left work.
Sunday, 12th. Strolled out along a country road and breakfasted on fish and chips, which I had got last night for the purpose, that being much cheaper than having meals at the hotel. A shower of rain came over, but did not last long, however, and soon the sun was shining again.
Met the two girls about quarter to ten, and we strolled out to Bury Ring, where we gathered a number of cowslips, which grew in plenty about the old earthwork. The weather seemed very changeable, at one time bright and sunny, at another time looking very threatening. The rain kept off, however, save for a few drops.
Went to Burly's for dinner, and in the afternoon Dorrie and I went for a walk to Wherwell Wood, which was resplendent with its spring foliage, and looking beautiful with bluebells and primroses, both of which blossomed there in profusion. We rambled about the delightful old wood, gathering bunches of wildflowers, and enjoying the beauty of the place as only lovers can. We rested awhile at the foot of a tree in the wood, and I teased and provoked the dear little girl till she got quite cross with me, and would not be friends again for some time afterwards. It did not last very long, however, and she soon forgave me in her loving artless way.
On the way home, we met Mr. Jewell out for a walk with Betty and Wilf. I thought he would not deign to recognize me, and was surprised when he extended his hand. Even so, his manner was not exactly amiable.
Going on, Dorrie and I had a very serious talk, mainly on matters concerning us two. The afternoon was warm and sultry, and we rested awhile on the face of a grassy hill overlooking the town, on the way home.
We were rather late getting in, which left very little time to spare for tea before going to chapel. Ate the rest of the chips I had left over from breakfast this morning. Came down and met Dorrie and her mother, and we went in to chapel, being about ten minutes late, but that's a mere detail. It was a pleasant service, and I liked very much to listen to Dorrie's sweet strong voice beside me in the singing of the hymns.
After chapel we all went for a walk, Miss Smith coming too, but she and Mrs. Jewell did not come very far with us. We were very happy together, my little girl and I, and we just rambled idly along the country road, enjoying each other's company. Coming back we rested on a convenient log by the roadside. A couple of fellows rode by on bicycles, and made some impudent remarks as they passed. We were both a little sad to think that we must part again tomorrow, but we have had some very happy times together, and must not complain. Anyway, I'll probably be able to get weekend leave from Warminster to come over to Andover to see my darling girl once a week, so that won't be too bad.
Monday, 13th. Packed up my things this morning. Met Dorrie in the lunch hour. It was raining when she returned from dinner, so, as Mrs. Blackett wanted to get off from the bottom shop, and Dorrie was to relieve her, she went in early. I stayed there at the shop with her for some time, business not being particularly brisk.
Despatched my kitbag to Viv at Warminster, in order to save taking it with me back to London. Took my bicycle up to Mrs. Jewell's and left it there.
Dorrie and I had tea together at a tea-shop, and it was a very pleasant informal little meal. Mrs. Banks said Dorrie could get off at seven and we arranged with Beatrice to meet us at quarter to nine and come to the station with us.
When Dorrie left work at seven, we went for a walk out along the Salisbury road, and towards Bury Ring. We were rather inclined to be serious, because soon we would be parted again. Discussed the prospects of our marriage next year, but at present there does not seem to be much hope of it.
Coming back we had an argument. I wanted to carry the dear girl over some water that lay in the path, and out of contrariness she did not want to let me. So we finally agreed to toss a coin for it, and I won the toss.
We left it a bit late getting back, and Beatrice was not at the Post Office when we arrived there, having gone on up to the station. Got my things at Burly's and went to the station, where Beatrice was waiting for us. We were rather saddened to think that the time for parting had come, but were hopeful of seeing each other again next weekend.
The 9.35p.m. train to London soon arrived, farewell greetings were exchanged, and in a few minutes we were parted again. It was a tiresome trip up to London, and I felt a little lonely and downhearted. Dorrie had given me a packet of lunch that her mother had sent, and on opening it I found enclosed a note from Mrs. Jewell, in which she asked me to try and think kindly of them, as it was only natural they should want to keep Dorothy with them.
Arrived at Waterloo at quarter to twelve, and went to the Union Jack Club, where I got a nice comfortable bed for nine-pence.
Tuesday, 14th. Up at half-past seven. Had breakfast at the Club, and then went round to Horseferry Road, where I received instructions to proceed to Fovant by the 1p.m. train from Waterloo. Was rather surprised, as I had expected to be sent to Warminster. However, Fovant is much nearer to Andover, being only 26 miles, so it will be a lot easier to get across on weekend leave.
Went to the Lounge Room at the War Chest Club, and wrote a letter to Dorothy. Took a bus to Trafalgar Square. Stopped to look at a fine lot of pictures in a shop just in the Strand. There were very good pictures of French and Belgian towns, and a number of fine landscape paintings. There were also many war pictures, but the one that took my fancy most was a snow scene called "Winter Sunset". The colouring of it was really beautiful, and it looked so natural and realistic. The price was only five shillings, and I would have liked very much to buy it, only I have determined if possible not to break into the £4 that I still have left, but to keep it till I can add a few more pounds to it in order to get our engagement ring.
Went down to Waterloo, and dined at the Union Jack Club. Left by the 1p.m. train. It stopped at Andover, and I was wishing I could have caught a glimpse of my little girl while there, but of course that was out of the question. We stopped awhile for refreshments at Salisbury, and then went on to Dinton, where we had to change into a small military train on a new branch line that has been constructed from there up to the camp at Fovant.
We arrived at Fovant camp station about half-past four, and after being kept waiting about for awhile, the divisions were separated, and the 2nd. division men told off to go to the 5th Training Battalion, the Regimental Serjeant-Major of which proved to be one of our old 24th, battalion serjeants. He was one of the batch of non-coms that Major Fitzgerald tried out for promotion soon after I joined the battalion, in October, 1916.
We were allotted to the officers' quarters in No.2 camp, which is next to the camp I was in when the 61st. battallion were here nearly a year ago. We were in No.1 camp then.
Went and saw the R.S.M. and told him about the M.P. incident at Andover last Sunday week, and he said he would smother the crime sheet when it came through, if at all possible.
Met a 24th. Bn. cadet named Robinson, and he was telling me about Viv in the Flanders stunt last October. He said that Viv with a handful of men occupied a German "pillbox" forward a bit from our line, and it looked for a time as if he would not be able to get out of it again and was in danger of being cut off by the Huns. But he managed to get out all right in the end.
We dined at the Officers' Mess. It was quite a decent meal, both as regards quality and quantity, which is something new for us in the military. However, we ought to get good food from now on, being treated the same as officers.
Wrote to Dorothy, telling her my new address. Also wrote to Viv, asking him to send my Kitbag on here. Went for a walk down through the village, but did not have time to go far.
We are settled here for a little while, I suppose. The training promises to be strenuous, amounting to 61/2 hours each day, in addition to which there are night operations twice weekly, Tuesdays and Thursdays. They say it is not easy to get leave with train travelling, but as long as I can get weekend leave with road pass to Andover I shall be satisfied.
The 3rd. division men have been attached to the 9th. Training Battalion, which is down at the other end of this camp, and the men of the other Australian divisions from Emmanuel College have been sent to other camps, some to Warminster and some to Codford.
Some of the cadets here previous to us have stayed as long as two months awaiting their commissions, but some of the officers have hinted that we will not be here more than a few weeks.
Wednesday, 15th. Submitted an application for weekend leave from noon on Saturday till midnight on Monday, to travel by road, Monday being a public holiday, Whit Monday.
We fell in about quarter to nine and were addressed by the C.O., Colonel Norrie, who seems a little bit of a spitfire. We were then issued with rifles and equipment, and sent away for Lewis Gun instruction. We had all been congratulating ourselves that we had finished with rifles and equipment when we handed them in at Cambridge, but it seems our self-congratulation was a little previous. In the afternoon we were put on musketry. Its awfully boring having to go all through this same old rigmarole again, that we have been learning for years past.
Finished the letter I had started to Mum before going on leave, and then went for a walk down through the village.
Thursday, 16th. Issued with gas respirators. On Lewis Gun work all the morning, and musketry in the afternoon, as well as bayonet fighting and gas training, both of which are special favourites of mine (I.D.T.!) Paid today, 10/- only, as there was no credit in my book.
We had to take part in the night operations tonight, consisting of musketry practice at groups of figures representing Hun wiring parties. Verrey lights were fired over them, and we had to fire while the light exposed the targets to our view. Needless to say, the shooting was not particularly brilliant. Got back to camp about eleven o'clock.
Friday, 17th. Nice letter from my little girl, written Tuesday and Wednesday, in reply to the note I wrote her from London. Went to orderly room and ascertained that the leave I applied for has been granted. The R.S.M. told me there was no sign yet of the crime sheet from the Andover M.P. Probably he did not send it in.
One of the officers told us today that we are all going to Tidworth about the end of next week, for a special course of training with the Lewis Gun and musketry. That will be just all right, for I'll be able to get across to Andover pretty frequently to see Dorothy.
Discovered a letter in my pocket today that Dorrie had written last Thursday and give me to post and which I had entirely forgotten. It was to Bess Ham at Salisbury.
Wrote to Dorrie, and posted her letter to Bessie. Wrote birthday greetings to Viv, and also wrote to Mrs. Morgan.
Have felt a bit feverish this afternoon, and am afraid of having caught a touch of influenza, which is going about at present. Hope it will not spoil my leave to Andover. Went for a walk down through the village, and got quite hot and knocked up. Wrote to Mary, but had no envelope, so could not post the letter.
Saturday, 18th. Route march with full pack this morning. Tried to find the doctor in order to be excused from duty, but could not get hold of him, so went on the march, although I was feeling rather weak and feverish, and my pulse registered 100 per minute.
We left at half-past eight and marched down through Fovant village and back to Dinton, then around by a circuitous route and back along the main valley on the Shaftesbury road. Marched about ten or eleven miles altogether, through some very pretty scenery, but I could not find any pleasure in it, as it was as much as I could do to keep on going. Managed to stick it out, however, but felt very much done up when we got back to camp, about quarter to twelve.
There was a very nice letter awaiting me from my little girl, also the weekend leave pass to Andover. No letter from Viv yet.
After dinner, got the chef to give me some lunch, and walked down to Dinton, only to find that a train had just gone and there would not be another till about five o'clock. Set out to walk to Salisbury, nine miles distant, though I was rather tired to start with, and my feet very sore after this morning's march.
It was a beautiful road, through long archways of thickly leaved trees, the branches from either side meeting overhead and forming a canopy of bright green. The road passed through picturesque little old villages with stone walls and thatched roofs. The sun was rather warm and dazzling, making walking a hot task. Twice I was overtaken by a vehicle, which raised my hopes of getting a lift, only to be disappointed to find that they were about to turn off the main road a little farther on.
Arriving at Hurdcott, I got on the main road from Shaftesbury to Salisbury, along which were plenty of motors carrying troops to the latter place for the afternoon. That mode of procedure, however, was too expensive for my limited means.
Came to Wilton at last. It is a very pretty little town with narrow streets and groves of horse-chestnuts and other trees, and many quaint and picturesque old buildings. Decided to walk on to Salisbury instead of waiting at Wilton for the next train. A kind-hearted motorist picked me up just beyond the town, and gave me a lift into Salisbury, where we arrived about four o'clock. Found that there would be a train to Andover at half-past four, and another at twenty to six, so decided to go by the latter, and go and see Bessie in the meantime.
Bessie was somewhat surprised to see me. Only a few minutes previous she had received Dorrie's letter that I posted yesterday. Her neighbour with the sick child was in there with her. They are going to Tidworth for a week's holiday, probably next week. Bessie provided some very welcome tea and bread and butter, and afterwards accompanied me to the station. She is such a fresh cheery sort of a girl that it is a pleasure to know her. .........
she had sent to care of Viv, and which he had sent on here. That shows that he must still be at Longbridge.
Tuesday, 21st. Read a couple of letters Dorrie had given me of George Pike's. He keeps reiterating that Dorrie is his only friend, and he continues to drop pointed hints that he very much wants her to come back to him. He is only deluding himself with a useless hope, for Dorrie will not go back to him. Still, it is rather mean of him to abuse the privilege we have extended to him of writing to Dorrie.
When we fell in this morning the adjutant read the promulgation of a court-martial sentence, by which the offender was sentenced to two years penal servitude and to forfeiture of pay amounting to £254, for having been absent without leave for about nine months. At the conclusion of the promulgation, the prisoner caused a little amusement by waving his hand above his head and shouting, "All together boys, hoo-b----ray! Old soldiers never die, they only fade away!"
The weather was extremely warm today, and I felt very tired after last night's ride, and not too well in consequence of the touch of influenza. Could not take kindly to work at all.
Wrote a letter to Dorrie.
The night operations tonight consisted of firing practice with Lewis guns in the chalk pit at the foot of the hill across the valley. Did not wait for darkness this time, as it keeps light so late now, but had the practice from about seven till nine o'clock.
It is in orders tonight that we go to Tidworth next Monday for a fortnight's course of training in musketry and Lewis Gun, at Bkurtpore barracks, being billeted at Candahar barracks.
Wednesday, 22nd. Nice long letter from Dorothy today, and one from Mrs. Morgan saying Viv had been up there on leave from Friday till Tuesday.
Wrote to Mum and Dad. Got a letter from Aunt Lydia this evening.
Thursday, 23rd. Raining today, and cold, which is a sudden change from what we've been having lately.
Nice letter from my little girl this afternoon. She was disappointed at not getting one from me on Wednesday. Wrote to her in reply. Discovered that I have lost the letter I got from her yesterday. This is the first and only letter from my darling girl that I have not kept possession of. (Footnote: Found this letter amongst some others after coming over to France)
Friday, 24th. We were put through gas tests this morning, both lachrymatory and chlorine. The latter was a very intense concentration, and the mask of my respirator was a little too large, allowing some of the fumes to filter through which gave me an unpleasant taste of the vile stuff, and made my eyes very sore for the time being.
Got another letter from Dorothy today, written in answer to the one I wrote her on Tuesday.
This afternoon we had a rather lazy time of it. We were supposed to be on wiring for a couple of hours, but our instructors were don't-give-a-hang sort of chaps, and we did nothing, but just lay down in the long soft grass and slept the afternoon away.
Wrote to Viv this evening, saying I would come over on Sunday if possible. Also wrote a letter to my little girl. Submitted an application for leave to Longbridge-Deverill on Sunday. It is only about fourteen or fifteen miles from here.
Saturday, 25th. We went for a ten-mile route march with full pack this morning, going by the steep road up the hill on the other side of the valley - the climb we used to love (?) so much when in training here with the 61st. Bn. last year. We passed through some very pretty country scenery, and came back along the main valley, arriving at camp about half-past twelve.
Took a photo this afternoon of my drawing of the church at Cherryhinton.
Sunday, 26th. Got leave pass to Warminster and set off about ten o'clock. The country was rather hilly, and the scenery very pretty. Passed through Hindon, which is a sweet little village with its ivy-grown walls of stone, and several other villages, arriving at the Longbridge-Deverill camp about twelve.
Found Viv in his room, looking just as well as ever. He said my kit-bag had not turned up at Warminster as yet. Had dinner at the mess, of which Viv is president, and then we went for a walk round through the town of Warminster, getting back in time for afternoon tea.
Arranged with Viv to come in to Salisbury next Sunday, Dorrie and I to ride in from Andover. Stayed till after tea, and then enjoyed a very pleasant ride back to Fovant in the cool of the evening.
Finished packing up my things ready for departure. We have to leave by the 8.5a.m. train from the railhead in the morning.
Monday, 27th. Left Fovant railhead by the 8.55a.m. train. Went to Tidworth and reported to Candahar Barracks, where we are to be on strength for food and accommodation, though we'll be attached to Bhurtpore Barracks for training and discipline.
Lunch was provided for us, although we were not supposed to turn up until five o'clock. Sorted out some of my books and things to leave behind when going to France.
Had afternoon tea, which is a daily item here. Took my bike, and left about half-past five for Andover. Arriving there, I left the machine at Burly's, and went up town and met my little girl at the shop. Stayed talking to her a little while, but she was busy and could not get off before eight.
Strolled around a bit in the meantime, and when Dorrie left work we went out for a happy walk together along a very pretty country lane. We made arrangements for Beatrice and Dorrie to cycle out to Tidworth on Wednesday afternoon, and we would all have tea out in a wood somewhere. Also arranged about coming in to Salisbury on Sunday to meet Viv.
When it was time to leave, Dorrie came out a bit of the way with me on her bicycle. It was a short though happy, evening together. It was nice and cool riding back in the dusk. Arrived at the barracks about quarter to eleven. We are supposed to be in by half-past ten, but evidently nobody takes check of what time we come in.
Tuesday, 28th. Breakfast this morning was a very light meal, and lunch was a good deal lighter. It appears it is only a one-and-sixpenny mess here, whereas it was a half-crown mess at Fovant. Put in for weekend leave to Salisbury.
The Huns have started their new offensive on two fronts. They were checked in the northern sector, Locre to Voormezeele, but compelled the French to withdraw on the Aisne between Soissons and Rheims, capturing the entire ridge of the famous Chemin des Dames.
Wednesday, 29. The Germans have advanced about ten miles between Soissons and Rheims, and have crossed the Vesle river. Off parade this morning to see the doctor and get some more trench-gums medicine.
Wrote to Mum and Dad. Told Mum I was going to increase allotment to 10/- a day when commission comes through, and asked her to bank £2 a week of it for me. Sent birthday post-cards to Dad, Viola, and Gordon.
About a dozen of us were late on parade this afternoon, and the lecturing officer spoke very seriously about it, hinting that we might possibly be returned to our units.
Paid this afternoon after parade, £2-10. Got a short letter from Dorothy, written yesterday, saying that she was feeling very ill, with a very bad headache, and might not come over to Tidworth as arranged. However, I met her with Beatrice down the road a bit, and we all cycled out along the Andover road, and went into a pretty wood off a side road. The girls had brought cakes, tea, and sandwiches, etc., and we had a very enjoyable picnic in the wood. What a happy evening it was! And what a joy it is to have such a dear little girl to make one's life happy. Dorrie had got a letter from Viv saying he might come to Andover Saturday night or Sunday. We arranged for Dorrie to write and ask him to wire if coming or not, or if he would be coming to Salisbury, so that we would know what to do about it.
It was a beautiful and calm evening and we spent a very enjoyable time in the wood, but all too quickly the time slipped away and darkness began to creep on. We left about half-past nine, and I rode in with the girls as far as Junction Rd. Arranged with Dorrie what I should say to her father when I got the ring for our formal engagement.
We parted a little after ten o'clock, at "the end of a perfect day". It was nice riding back to Tidworth in the cool of the evening. A Tommy M.P. corporal, who said he was sent out to catch cyclists riding without lights, accompanied me back. Got in to barracks about half-past eleven.
Thursday, 30th. The Huns have captured Soissons and advanced five miles over the Vesle. Rheims is in danger of being encircled and cut off.
Rode out after tea to the wood where we were yesterday, to get my fountain pen, which I had left there. It was still there all right. Called at Ludgershall coming back and bought a couple of bike lamps with clips for 6/6.
After dinner, wrote up notes of our musketry lecture.
Friday, 31st. This morning we were notified that a communication had been wired through recalling all the cadets to their Training Battalions. Evidently we are wanted for France. The C.O. said we would be granted weekend leave from tomorrow morning till 6p.m. on Monday.
This afternoon some old colonel gave us a farewell address. We will probably be leaving for France some time during next week. Sold my watch, the cheap one I bought at Cambridge, for 5/-, being short of small cash. Have got £7 besides, but am hanging on to that like grim death, in the hope of being able to get the long-looked-for engagement ring tomorrow, if the £2 Viv said he would send arrives.
Rode over to Andover. When Dorrie left work we went for a happy ramble out to the chalk pit near Bury Ring. Stayed there till it was nearly dark, happy in each other's company. Arranged to come over again tomorrow night, to find out what we should do about meeting Viv. Had some trouble with the rear lamp on the way back. It finished up by catching fire, melting the soldered joints, and falling to pieces, in a grand flare of blazing paraffin. It was well after midnight before I got back to barracks.
Saturday, 1st. Got registered letter from Viv this morning, with the £2 he had promised to send. Said he might not be able to come in tomorrow.
All the other cadets went away on their weekend leave, except a few, who, being short of cash, went straight back to their Training Battalions. I had arranged to stay on at Kandahar Barracks till Monday. Having 10/- to credit in my paybook, I interviewed the paymaster and had an argument with him, with the result that in the end he paid it.
Cycled in to Salisbury this .........
Friday, 7th. Left Mrs. Morgan's about half-past ten, and came to Charing Cross. Bought a French razor and stropping board for 10/-. Went to the Art shop in the Strand to see if they had the picture, "Winter Sunset," that I took such a fancy to the last time I was in London, about a month ago. It was not in the window, but they had it inside, so I promptly bought it. The name is "Golden Sunset", not "Winter Sunset", and it looks very beautiful and natural.
Went to the Grafton Galleries, where there is showing an exhibition of Australian war photos. There were some very fine pictures there, showing the mud and the ruin and desolation of the battlefield in all its dread reality. There were two very large pictures, measuring, I should think, about 15 feet by 20 feet each. One was a photo of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, and the other showed a line of men going "over the top" at the Broodeseinde Ridge last October, with a heavy enemy barrage in front of them. There was also an exhibition of colour-photographs by lantern slides, most of them being very beautiful, though the colours were, perhaps a trifle high. The first was a sunset scene at Ypres, showing the old wall and the moat. One of them showed the sphinx and the pyramid that still retains the alabaster covering over the upper portion. There were some very beautiful ones of Palestine, including Gaza, Jaffa, and Jerusalem, majestic hill scenery of Judea, and Light Horseman fighting amongst the hills.
In another part of the gallery was a collection of war paintings and drawings by Australian artists. They were all small, having probably been executed on the field under difficulties. One of them had a piece of brown paper pasted over it. Part of a soldier's head and the muzzle of a rifle, evidently carried "slung", were visible over the top of the brown paper.
Leaving the Gallery, I walked down Piccadilly. Bought a pair of doeskin gloves for Dorrie. Got a very good meatless dinner, eggs, vegetables, etc., for 1/1 at the Strand Corner-house. Saw a flower-seller with a bunch of wonderful deep red roses, so I procured them for my little girl. Met Mr. Noble, of the 24th Bn., in Villiers St. He was just recovering from trench fever, and looked a bit of a wreck.
Went to Waterloo and caught the 3.15p.m. train to Andover. Went up to the shop to meet Dorrie, and she asked me to go up and see Beatrice at seven o'clock. Had tea at a tea room, and went for a bit of a walk to fill in time. Called at Mrs. Stanmore's at seven o'clock, and Beatrice was awfully surprised to see me. It appears she and Dorrie had been having some joke over it. Went for a short walk with Beatrice, and we came down to the shop at eight to meet Dorrie. Beattie left us then, and we walked out to the sweet little wood on the way to Weyhill, and spent there a very happy evening together, staying till it got pretty well dark. We discussed the prospects of our marriage next year, and came to the conclusion that on the whole they are looking somewhat brighter.
Stayed the night at Burly's Hotel.
Saturday, 8th. Slept in a bit this morning. Had breakfast at Burly's, and then went up to the shop. Dorrie said she could get off for dinner from half-past one till half-past two, to come up to the station with me.
Went up to the home. While there I went upstairs to Dorrie's room to get an autograph book, and it was a genuine pleasure to see a room kept so nice and tidy. Had dinner with Mrs. Jewell, and came down to the shop again. Rang up Aldershot for Mrs. Cavell, to try and get into communication with Bob Stuart, but could not get him.
Met Dorrie, and we went up to the station. Was informed at the Parcels Office that my kit-bag arrived at Warminster the day I sent it, and had been there ever since.
The two o'clock train from London came in, and soon my little sweetheart and I were parted again. Arrived at Fovant about four o'clock. Asked the assistant adjutant about getting a road pass to Andover for the weekend and he said I could have leave tomorrow, but not overnight.
A map of Australia cut in the chalk of the hillside at Hurdcott Camp near Fovant. AWM
For more information about the Fovant badges please visit the Fovant Badges Society website
AIF Battalions were based at Hurdcott while engaged in training activities on the Salisbury Plain c. 1916.
Got bill from Masters for 8/-. There was no other mail in the mess for me, although a number of the boys said they had seen a packet of readdressed mail for me, besides a couple of loose letters. There should be two letters from Dorrie, written last Monday and Wednesday, but there does not seem to be any sign of them.
Walked down to Dinton station to ascertain what time I should have to catch the train in the morning. Found that there's no train from Dinton station in the morning, and the only one from Salisbury leaves about eight o'clock. Unfortunately, the last train tonight had gone. So, being determined to get to Andover tomorrow to see my little girl for the last time, there was nothing for it but to walk in to Salisbury tonight and stay there for the night, going on to Andover by the morning train.
Walked up to the camp to get my coat and shaving gear. Robinson discovered my packet of readdressed letters in one of his pockets. Evidently some misguided ass had put them there for a joke, while he was out. Did not have time to stop and read them, as it was after half-past nine already. Someone said it was in tonight's orders that we report at Southampton at 3p.m. on Tuesday to proceed overseas to our units. Also heard the 3rd. division officers had received notice to go, some on Monday and some Tuesday.
Set out to walk in to Salisbury, but, by the time I reached Hurdcott, I felt very tired and my feet ached a good deal. Fortunately a few motors were still running, so I took one and enjoyed a lovely run in the cool evening air, arriving at Salisbury about half-past ten. The only other passenger was a girl from a private hospital, who had stayed out later than the permitted time. She enlisted the services of the lady driver and me to help her over the back gate, which was about eight or ten feet high, so that she could get in unobserved. Between us we hoisted her up to the top of the gate, and then she dropped down on the inside.
Got a room at the Nelson Hotel, where I had to pay 3/6 for bed only, special fancy price for officers, no doubt.
Sunday, 9th. Up at six o'clock. Read through the packet of Australian letters I had got last night. There was one each from Mum, Beattie Bostock, Maggie Elliott, Vera Billingham, Mrs. Tanner.............
Monday, 10th. To our unmitigated disgust, we had to go on parade as usual this morning, having physical jerks in a shed as it was raining. After that we started to go on with bayonet fighting, when two of the boys, who had gone to interview the adjutant, brought the news that the parade was declared "off".
Sent a photo and memorial picture of Bert to Mrs. Morgan. Also sent to Mum a couple more photos and the remaining sketch for the girls' autograph books, having inscribed a few lines of Campbell's "Hope" on it last Saturday. Handed in my rifle and bayonet, and posted 10/- to Carter and Son, Salisbury, to complete payment for the ring.
Paid this afternoon, £3, besides 9/- extra duty pay. Wrote to Viv, sending him £2 of the £3 I owe him. Packed up most of my things ready for departure.
Wrote a letter to my dear little girl.
Tuesday, 11th. We all left by the nine o'clock train from Fovant railhead. At Dinton station I met Arthur Hopper. He was looking well, but said he was still suffering from the effects of gas. He has been at Hurdcott for the last three weeks.
Arriving at Salisbury, we had an hour to wait for the Southampton train, so I went up to Mrs. Wordsworth's to see Bessie. She came up to the station with me to see me off.
We had to change again for the third time at Eastleigh, and eventually arrived at Southampton about half-past twelve. Reported at the Embarkation Office, put our things aboard the transport ship, an old paddle-wheel steamer, the "Monas Queen", and were allowed out for the afternoon until quarter past six. Dined at a restaurant with Hoskins and Bill Bibbs, and then strolled up the town. Looked through the Art Gallery at the Public Library. Some of the pictures were interesting, especially a few depicting the adventures of Sinbad the Sailor. Bought a writing pad, returned to the Public Library, and wrote a letter to Dorrie. Had a 6d tea at a cafe in order to economise.
Returned to the boat just in time, and had a good dinner on board, there being plenty of meat, and an unlimited supply of sugar and margarine. The boat was crowded with American troops, who looked fine specimens of manhood. One very noticeable thing about them was that they made very little use of bad language, and in this respect they contrasted strangely from Australian troops, whom they closely resemble in many other ways.
The boat got under way about quarter past seven. Didn't bother going on deck to see the last of "Blighty", but stayed in the comfortable sitting room and commenced writing a letter to Mum and Dad.
Later on I took off boots, putties, coat, and collar, and settled down for the night on a nice soft lounge. It was very warm in the sitting room, it being close to the engine room.
Wednesday, 12th. Got up about four o'clock and breakfasted on a few cakes I had brought with me. We had arrived at Le Havre some time during the night, and were now moored at a wharf.
We disembarked about half-past seven. Having a few hours to spare, I walked up the town, which seems a rather dirty-looking place generally. The Hotel de Ville was a quite nice building, and the pretty little garden patches in front of it formed a pleasing relief to the general drab aspect of the town.
Went into the Officers' Club and had a general clean up, and then strolled down along the beach, where things looked much cleaner and more beautiful. The beach itself did not look very inviting, but the fresh green hills along the foreshore, covered with fine residences, presented a very pleasant appearance. One large white building, bearing the name "Casino" over the entrance, was being used as a hospital, many blue-clad Tommies lounging about its grounds and walls. Another building, apparently a private residence, had a pretty limestone grotto at the front of it, the rear of the grotto framing a window to a room within.
Took a train out to Harfleur and went to the base camp. There was not sufficient accommodation for so many new arrivals, and some of us had to dump our gear and wait for tents to be erected for us.
Australian Infantry Base Depot camp at Harfleur. Long recreation and canteen huts line
the main road, and rows of EPIP tents are visible at the far left. AWM
General Braidwood came along and addressed us in the Y.M.C.A. hall. He looked so much fatter than when I last saw him that at first I scarcely recognised him. He told us amongst other things that he had been appointed to the command of an army, but would probably still retain the Australian divisions in his army.
Paid this afternoon, 50 francs (£1-16-8). Wrote to Dorrie, and finished the letter to Mum and Dad, repeating what I had said a couple of weeks back about increasing my allotment to 10/- per day.