January 1916


1 Saturday

We had a lively beginning for the New Year.  Enemy shelled us with whizzbangs[1] and shrapnel at breakfast time.  Very heavy firing on our right commencing at 4am and went on nearly all day.  Bde. Maj left us tonight.  He sent for me, shook hands and gave me the surprise of my life by doing so.  The day has been very wet and miserable and wind blowing a proper gale.

2 Sunday

Strafing commenced at 6am earlier than usual.  The usual arty firing today.  About 1 clean weather brought rest of planes out.  A few men laid out on road leading from the Lille Gate this morning.  Still raining heavy.  Very wet and miserable all day.  The wind blowing a gale.  Nothing special at all today.  Very quiet tonight.  New work of the enemy has been noted today.  The artillery have been asked to give the matter their attention.  The daily occurrence here is nothing else but artillery duels.

3 Monday

2 of our Batteries started again this morning at 6am.  What the idea was I do not know.  The HAR[2] are having a shoot at 1pm.  It is not war its business, one unit having a strafe warns all other units in their vicinity thus the game goes on.  Enemy arty very busy today.  Two men hit near our place, one severely.  Kruistraat got it hot, also near the end of our dugout.  Received a pleasant surprise from home, a ring as a birthday present.  Very quiet tonight.

4 Tuesday

Heavy arty bombardment North of Ypres form 5am until 7am.  Dull with a slight drizzle of rain.  Five ofrs from England for instruction were met by 2 of orderlies at Kriustraat corner to guide them to our HQ.  The ofrs. wanted to see Ypres so they went through and got lost coming out on the Menin road one fell in a shell hole full of water, another was wounded.  They are a little wiser now.  The men got into trouble taking them there.  I was at Verbranden Molen today.  I saw Hill 60.

5 Wednesday

Fine all day but cold.  The usual again today but very much heavier.  Heavy rifle fire which is unusual from 2pm to 3om.  Aeroplanes very active all day long. Sgt. Broadbelt went to be questioned by O.C. Sig. Coy. 50 Div. re taking a commission.  Transport had 4 GS wagons upset on the road.  Traffic held up until 1.30am

6 Thursday

Dirty + wet all day, it doesn’t prevent the artillery having the usual strafe.  We got a few whizzbangs then shrapnel over our place today.  One burst over my head as I was carrying the tea down at 4pm.  I thought my number was up.  The roads shelled tonight while transport was coming up.  Armoured train North of Ypres has shelled our lines a few nights on end recently.

7 Friday

The usual rain and wind and the usual artillery activity.  At 1pm arty gave Hill 60 their special attention for one hour.  The 17th Div. on our left relieved tonight by the 24th Div.  The armoured train again paid us a very late visit at 11pm and later about 1 am.  One transport ditched again.  This is the usual nightly occurrence.

8 Saturday

Very fine + bright but cold.  Nothing to record today except the usual and a few gas shells they gave us.  Brother went into hospital today with tonsillitis.

 9 Sunday

Very fine and bright today but cold.  The usual strafing with a little extra for Hill 60 again.  An ideal day for aeroplane observation therefore they are very busy.  Transport were shelled on the journey up tonight.  An enemy fortified position named the Birdcage was almost destroyed by our arty today.

10 Monday

A nice bright day.  4am until 4.30am a very severe arty engagement, I think it was South of Ypres.  Aeroplanes were very busy as it was an ideal day for their work.  Heavy firing again this afternoon North of the town.  About 9pm the Germans commenced heavily strafing the roads.  They most probably thought there was a relief in progress.  It was good shells wasted as there was hardly a soul astir then.  Burying cable at night towards front line.

11 Tuesday

Our aeroplanes very busy in spite of a strong west wind.  The usual arty fire until 1pm when heavy firing could be heard towards Het-Sas[3] on the Ypres canal.  Got motor and dynamos to unload.  It is to supply electric lights in dugouts.  The motor is set at Transport Farm.  The enemy turned M.Gun on a working party of ours.  No casualties.

12 Wednesday

Cold and frosty.  Very clear until dinner.  Saw a short scrap in mid-air today.  Our heavy 6” howitzer put twenty shells into our own trenches, 16 were duds, no casualties.  The working party we have out at nights burying wires had a man killed with a stray bullet.  Very heavy firing all day could be heard towards the west.  Brother came out of hospital.

13 Thursday

Weather very wild and cold.  A little rain and hail.  Our men burying lines again came in for a warm time.  One of our men, Shearwood, rifle shot through both legs, another of the 8th DLI got hit in the back.  Arty were very active all day.  Our guns doing a great deal of damage in the enemy lines.

14 Friday

Enemy gave us a two hours shelling.  They whizzbanged HQ firing until about 11am.  No-one hit.  Not so much arty firing today.

15 Saturday   

Great excitement today owing to awards for distinction.  One of our 9” howitzers was hit and put out of action this morning.  Dull all day.  Bde on our left 72nd relieved by the 71st Enemy arty busier than usual.  About 10pm they fired a good number of heavy shells over beyond Kruistraat.  Wireless stns. erected here today.

16 Sunday

Nothing doing today except a little aerial attack.  10-11pm enemy firing 6” around Kruistraat.

17 Monday

About 15 of our planes out this morning.  Very clear.  Planes busy.  One of ours compelled to descend near Kruistraat.  Observer hit on leg with shrapnel, leg almost blown off.  Another flew low and dropped a note one of batteries.  Our arty from 9.30 to 12 noon registering and firing on different points in enemy lines.  They are retaliating on our trenches.  Enemy shelled these batteries with gas shells from 2-5 pm.  They were compelled to leave their guns, goggles no use.    We also got it strong as they put a lot near our dugouts.  Gas alarm given which turned out false + went spy hunting no success.

18 Tuesday

Very dull and misty with slight rain all day.  Nothing doing.  Capt. not well ordered to stay in bed by the doctor.

19 Wednesday

Bright + clear.  Aircraft busy.  Enemy dropped a large number of 8” How shells around our HQ and Transport Farm.  The men soon cleared out of the farm, quick.  A few wounded.  It was very exciting while it lasted.  This was a reply to our arty activity this morning which must have annoyed them a lot.  We got another dose of 8” shells this afternoon also a good number of HE Shrapnel.  Heavy firing south this morning.

20 Thursday

Very cold, strong wind.  Little doing except German planes were busy all day.  One shrapnel burst near our latrine while the men were in.  All safe.  We got one dynamo away for a short time today but it is not satisfactory.  Something wrong with it.

21 Friday

Wet nearly all day.  Arty quiet.  Our men exploded a mine last night, nothing came of it.  Capt. still on the sick list but much better.  No electric light yet.

22 Saturday

Very clear this morning but changed to rain.  Enemy burst three HE Shrapnel over a party of 7th DLI without effect.  It is astonishing how they get them on the road every time.  One I saw burst over the Lille Gate.  Capt. going on 2 days sick leave tomorrow.  Electric still wanting.

23 Sunday

Frost + mist cleared out about 10.  Aeroplanes active all day especially German.  One or two small ——–Arty were busy all day also.  Germans shelling more than usual 24th Div.  This morning had a short strafe.  Wireless outfit brought into our dugout this morning.  Capt. went on 10 days leave.

24 Monday

Nothing just the usual all day.  Weather dirty and wet.  Paid a visit to our refast[4] centre in Zillebeke this afternoon.  It is wonderful to see the way the whole of this village has been shelled.

25 Tuesday

Nothing of importance today except unusual aeroplane observations.  A large number of the enemy’s planes coming over our lines.  Heard of my nephew’s death in the Mediterranean, killed in action, December 27 1915. [5]

26 Wednesday     

Dull with rain.  I paid a visit to 8th & 9th DLI & 5 Borders in the trenches.  Travelling about three parts of the front line.  Saw Stirling Castle, a German stronghold.  Nothing more doing all day except a very heavy bombardment is going on towards the west.

27 Thursday

Kaiser’s birthday we expected trouble but nothing doing just the usual at present, noon.  Still firing heavy towards the coast.  A party from the Royal Navy of 1 Ofr. and 10 men arrived at 6pm.  They are spending 24 hours in the trenches.  They did not care for this sort of life then.  The flares going up amused them and reminded them of a firework display.

28 Friday

Quieter than usual today.  I visited Batt in Sanctuary Wood this morning.  The enemy were dropping gas shells in at the time.  Nothing further of note except a battery near us had a premature shot, wounding some men working near one seriously.  Enemy very quiet.

29 Saturday

Dull all day therefore nothing much doing in the way of arty.  Wind has now veered round to the east favourable for the enemy using gas.  We expect a gas attack on this front so everyone was on the alert.  One alarm which turned out false came from the 73rd Bde.  Enemy have been very quiet all day.  9th DLI relieved after dark 6th DLI now in front line.

30 Sunday

Night passed quiet.  Very foggy this morning.  It is like the calm before the storm Everything still quiet Fog is much thicker, if possible, tonight.

31 Monday

Still foggy.  Went to pigeon lofts in Ypres for birds to commence a service from trenches.  Had a good look around at the destruction done by the Hun.  Got a good few souvenirs.  An unusual sight could be seen after dark.  Enemy flare thrown was reflected in the sky.


[1] Whizz-bang: a light artillery shell (18lb or 75 or 77mm) that gave virtually no warning of its approach

[2] HAR: Honourable Artillery Regiment which actually was an infantry regiment contrary to the perception given

[3] Het-Sas=located to the north of Ypres and Boezinge

[4] Refast (?) check what this means

[5] Z/2539 Able Seaman G.W. Foster RNVR B Coy 7th Platoon, Hawke Battalion, RN Division BMEF, killed in action 27 December 1915 no known grave, commemorated on the Helles Memorial, Gallipoli, Turkey, the son of John and Mary Hannah Foster, 24 Railway Terrace, Willington.