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.