4th June 1917


1st Target – Enemy snipers
Continuous observation necessary for any movement.  Look for flash of rifle, gas from rifle, dust raised by firing, relief of enemy snipers – usually very early morning, use of dummy figure and periscope, direction of bullet holes in sand.

2nd Target – Enemy loopholes (usually numerous)
Fire to be withheld unless the presence of a sniper behind loophole is a certainty.  Armour piercing bullets.

3rd Target – Enemy exposed
End of communication trenches, cooking places, low parts on parapets.

Best time for targets -
Meal times (reliefs), misty weather (carelessness), after heavy rain or bombardment (parapets exposed).

Snipers in attack -
Smash enemy periscopes during bombardment and aim for enemy exposing himself.  Advance with attack and establish an OP in shell-hole about 100 yards in front of line (this in case of a creeping barrage only).  In an ordinary barrage snipers to go forward and take up their positions before the attack starts.

Duties are –
Cover bombers in attack.
Snipe enemy bombers (‘stick’ bombers easily expose themselves).
Prevent rear or flank attacks.
Pick off enemy snipers, officers on reconnaissance, runners.
Special targets should be watched and independent action taken.
No rapid fire should be used.

“Clarence” was a distinguished member of the battalion whose battle-scarred features were beloved by every Westminster.  At the date of our introduction he was obviously war-weary and with the passing of the long drawn out trench warfare of the earlier years his usefulness as a front line combatant was on the wane.  His iron frame was creaking at the joints and his wooden head bore the holes of many an encounter with the enemy.  True, the holes had been skilfully patched but it seemed doubtful whether he would again take up his post in the line.

The newcomers had no opportunity of making use of “Clarence’s” services but his modus operandi in action was explained to the sniping squad.  “Clarence” would lurk below the parapet until such time as our enemy snipers became troublesome.  By a mechanical contrivance the poor lad was then slowly raised until his head was exposed and Jerry gleefully notched up another victim.  He was casually lowered, a compass bearing taken through the hole in his head and duly marked on the trench map on which his new position was already located.  “Clarence” was then hurried several hundred feet along the trench, his martyrdom repeated and the second compass bearing duly recorded on the map.  At the point of intersection of the two bearings the map showed the exact position of the enemy sniper and the range could be measured.  The rest was in the hands of the British mortars.

Although we never made use of “Clarence” we did have the company of the Stoke’s Mortar boys (1) in the trenches at Arras.  We hated their activities.  Having pooped off half a dozen rounds in quick time they would hastily depart.

Soaked to the skin, weary and dirty, I returned to the billet wondering why I had volunteered to be a sniper.  The rest of my billet companions, having been excused afternoon and evening parades, were already bedded down for the night; their raillery did nothing to improve my ill humour.  My dishevelled appearance could easily pass muster on the morrow but the rifle was a different matter.  Something has to be done quickly.  With considerable distaste I peered down the barrel of the “soldier’s best friend”.  Out from the butt came oil bottle, pull-through, wire gauze and a piece of flannel “4x2”.  Innumerable times I went through the barrel, all to no purpose.  It remained as dirty as when I had started and worse still, the first signs of rust were evident.  Then came the brilliant idea.  Carefully arranging a broken matchstick inside the gauze and flannel in order to provide more resistance I got to work again, but the improvisation resulted in disaster.  When halfway through the pull-through stuck and refused to budge another inch.  Immediately above my head were the rafters of the barn and, tying the pull-through to the crossbeam, I hung on to the rifle and grimly raised my feet – the pull-though cord broke halfway through the barrel.

It was now getting late and outside the billet all was quiet and deserted.  Scouting around in the semi-darkness, dodging the sentries, I at length came upon a small hut with the forbidding words “Armourer Sergeant” in large, white letters on the door.  With trepidation I knocked and entered.  A polite voice said “Good Evening”.  Speechless I handed over the offending weapon.  By manipulation of a long instrument made to fit the rifling of the barrel, Sergeant A G Fulton (2), Armourer Sergeant and King’s Prize man, screwed out the obstruction in a matter of minutes.  Slowly unravelling the gauze and the flannel the matchstick came into view.  Holding up the offending object he waggled his finger at me, that was the full extent of his admonition.  Escorting me to the door he said goodnight and a very chastened, but grateful, rifleman crept quietly back to his billet with a clean rifle and a brand new pull-through.

(1) Wikipedia entry for Stoke's Mortars here.
(2) More on the famous Fulton family here.

On the range.
Scores - 20 (group), 11 (application), 24 (10 rounds rapid fire), 6 (gas).
Map reading. Squared maps, etc.
Half day off.
Air raid on Duissans CCS. 14 killed.

Original diary entry
Original journal notes