26th May 1917

The general was late – a prerogative exercised by the top brass.  From an early hour the company were hard at it - squad drill, rifle drill, more squad drill, rifle drill, marching and wheeling in formation interminably until officers and men were sick and weary with the continuous performance.  Lunch would be late.  Platoons were detached for individual squad drill and Lieutenant Smith manoeuvred No. 8 into a secluded position at the rim of the perimeter.  Here we continued our labours until Smith, in desperation, said “Hold it – I’m fed up with this lark let’s play strap-ass”.

Strap-ass is a simple game.  I have forgotten the precise rules but for the purpose of this chronicle the title itself is explanatory and all embracing.  Briefly, the participants stand in a circle facing inwards.  Each man in turn has the privilege of using a heavy leather belt, any man at the receiving end has to chase around the ring to avoid the buckle end and resume his position.  We became thoroughly immersed in the enjoyable break from routine, not excluding the worthy Lieutenant himself who in the excitement of the chase was prancing around like a schoolboy and generally behaving in a manner unbecoming to an officer and a gentleman, at least on the parade ground.

No. 8 Platoon were having the time of their lives when a voice from the ring spoke.  The Colonel, not only the Colonel but also the Brigadier, standing not many yards away were interested spectators.  Whatever our distinguished visitors may have thought about our military antics No.8 Platoon and the officer responsible for them, Smith’s reaction to the unexpected and his demonstration of quick thinking should at least have earned him a few marks.  After one, quick obscene exclamation he said, in effect, “Carry on with the strap-ass, we can’t stop now you’ve got into it and for God’s sake don’t let me down”.  I am sure the Brigadier had never before seen such a rip-roaring display as we put on that day for his edification.  To our great surprise the great man congratulated Lieutenant Smith on his enterprise and the men of No. 8 Platoon on their spirited exhibition.

The battalion was under strength and a further draft arrived in the afternoon.

GOC's inspections.
Half day off.
Draft arrives.

Original diary entry
Original journal notes

"On May 26th, the G.O.C., 56th Division (Major-General Sir C.P.A.Hull) inspected the Battalion, and thanked and congratulated it on the part it had played in the Battles of Arras. In the course of his speech he impressed on all ranks the need for greater reliance on the rifle; and it is of interest to note that, in the fighting in the autumn and afterwards in the spring of 1918, the Battalion specially distinguished itself by the effective use it made of this weapon."
Excerpt from "The War History of the 1st Battalion Queen's Westminster Rifles 1914-1918" [ISBN 1-84342-610-2]