20th April 1917

Reveille at 5:15am heralded the commencement of an intensive course of physical training and musketry that lasted for eighteen days on the ‘Bull Ring’ (or the ‘Pimple’) which was situated on a high plateau some distance from the camp.  In blazing sun the daily march up to the Bull Ring was exhausting.

With the newly acquired tin hats the cord and hard leather lining bit deeply into closely cropped heads.  At the top we were at the mercy of the ‘Canaries’, the base instructors in their bright yellow jerseys.  Until late evening squad drill and bayonet work alternated with barely a break.

The midday meal was taken on the training ground and this was the signal for the influx of large numbers of elderly and decrepit market people to proffer their wares at exorbitant prices.  I paid my franc and indulged in an orgy of saffron cakes.  The high spot on these days on the Pimple came when the sun was beginning to sink in the West and the squad were lined up for the return journey to the camp.

Music played an important part in the life of the soldiers.  Throughout the lengthy period of the march-off by the many hundreds of men the massed bands of the Guards played those military marches only the Guards could play until the last man had departed with the setting sun.  I minded not how long our squad stood there awaiting its turn to march off and to this day martial music brings back a picture of the sun disappearing behind the ‘Pimple’ and hundreds of men passing one day nearer the unknown.  In later days we marched to the music of our own Regimental Band – it was not quite up to the standard of the Guards but at times of depression and near exhaustion the first notes of the band striking up always revived our spirits and gave new impetus to reluctant feet.  If the solo bugle produced a false note occasionally, which it did, our release from the cares and fatigue of the hour was enhanced.

The only occasion when little pleasure was derived from marching behind a band was when, still as part of the Brigade on draft, the column was led by the bagpipes of the London Scottish.  Being a rifle regiment the QWR were trained to march at 140 steps to the minute and in the early days as recruits the pace seemed entirely beyond our capacity.  Gradually, however, we became so used to 140 that we found difficulty in slowing down the tempo.  In slow time the march behind the wailing bagpipes of the London Scottish was agony and possibly regimental pride suffered a little.  There was a reason for this.  Owing to the close proximity of the respective Regimental Drill Halls in London there existed a strong, not unfriendly, rivalry between the two regiments which was somewhat enhanced by the feeling that, in our opinion, the Scottish were regarded in Fleet Street as the blue-eyed boys of the London Territorials and received more than their fair share of publicity than was afforded to the other regiments of the ‘Grey’ brigade.  The story goes that one day a QWR rifleman fed up with yet another picture in the daily papers glorifying the London Kilts walked into the drill hall in Queen’s Gate, apologising for his intrusion, and said “Excuse me but is it really true that the London Scottish sank the Emden”.  No one could vouch for the truth of the story*, be that as it may, whenever the regiments came together on the march the London Scottish were unfailingly greeted with a chorus of “Who sank the Emden?".

Original diary entry
Original journal notes

*  "... newsboys hawking papers on the streets of Britain did full-throated justice to two items of information, newly released by the Press Bureau, which appeared on their billboards in happy juxtaposition.

It gave rise to a joke that persisted for months.
  Question: 'Who sank the Emden?'  Answer: 'The London Scottish'.

The German battlecruiser Emden had been sunk by the Australian navy, and it was Australia's first spectacular contribution to the war effort ...."
1914: The Days of Hope - Lyn MacDonald - Penguin UK - ISBN 9780241972199