7th June 1917

Bradley’s theory that snipers were excused all mundane fatigues did not work out in practice.  In addition to patrol work and the construction of observation posts, my spare moments were sacrificed in taking food to the Duty Guard.

With the best will in the world I am sure the Company cooks made the most of the miserable rations provided and it was not their fault if the meals were consistently inedible except to starving men.  My own particular bete noir was the bull beef stew with the addition of swedes and sweet chestnuts – a dish which appeared with unfailing regularity.  On this particular day the cooks produced their piece de resistance which, incidentally, was the cause of an interesting conflict with high military rank.

My companion and I were in the process of conveying from the field kitchen to the dump guard a large and heavy iron container with the midday dinner.  The road was completely isolated except for one solitary figure approaching from the opposite direction.  Swinging a cane, he appeared to be deep in thought and as he drew level we identified him as the Colonel commanding the London Brigade.  We gave him the “eyes left” which he acknowledged with a pleasant smile, exclaiming “I say, that really looks delicious, what is it?”  I replied that our cooks called it “steak pie”.  The colonel was not to be put off however and insisted on having the full recipe in order, he said, “that the L.R.B. cooks should receive some instruction in the culinary arts of the Q.W.R's”.  He was most charming, thanked us profusely and departed on his way, albeit still with a thoughtful air.  The concoction, for what it was worth, was stewed bully beef covered with a crust made from powdered army biscuits and baked in the ovens – it was revolting.

The evening was more rewarding.  Chilton had arranged a shooting competition on the range for B Company snipers.  We took up our allotted positions, the rest of the section having been detailed to act as markers in the butts, whilst an NCO, by the side of each competitor, recorded the scores signalled after each shot.

To my intense surprise Forster had somehow managed to infiltrate the sniping squad by persuading the officer that he was a suitable entrant.  Just what underhand methods he adopted in order to be with his pals I never found out but I was delighted to see him at my side.  We shot off our rounds and I was content with the number of bulls and inners signalled by the marker, a total of 78 points.  Forster was still shooting, cards were collected and in due course Chilton presented me with a five franc note for the top score.

We all relaxed.  Forster came up with his congratulations which were sincere but with a woebegone face he added “I had three signalled right off target.”  I said “Nonsense, you can’t be all that bad, let’s go up to the butts and see what happened”.  It was indeed a poor effort, quite apart from the fact that three shots were missing.  Then came the awful thought.  Sure enough my own target showed three more hits than I had fired.  In his hurry to complete the shoot Forster had shot onto my target for his last three shots.  They were outers and clearly identifiable because my marker in the butts, having pasted over the full quota of hits from my rifle, had naturally given up his labours.  This put me in a quandary because, although morally I knew I had earned the five francs, conscience told me that authority would take a different view.  I pondered for a while and, when I declared my intention of speaking to Chilton, poor Forster pleaded desperately that I do no such thing.  His despair was understandable since shooting at the wrong target on the range was a crime of some magnitude.  With the noblest of gestures I stifled my conscience for Forster’s sake and pocketed the five francs.

All day fatigue. Meals to Dump Guard.
"Patrols" and "Observation posts".
Best shot in B Company snipers - 78 points.
5 francs from Mr Chilton.

Original diary entry
Original journal notes