12th June 1917

Having slept in the bivvy from stand down until 10:30am I was awakened by delivery of post from home.  A trivial matter for the record perhaps but an outstanding event for those on active service.

The defences in the ‘Harp’ system were sadly in need of repair and reinforcement.  Willing parties from all Companies spent most of the night-time in no-mans land screwing in heavy pickets and unwinding recalcitrant rolls of barbed wire.  To help in this work the services of  the Q.V.R., located in the reserve trenches at the rear, were co-opted and it fell to the lot of Bradley and myself to act as their guides.

Our way lay to the left; leaving Boar Trench we negotiated the devious route via Lion Trench, Tiger Trench, Jungle Alley and Shikal Lane and arrived at the field dressing station which was to be our rendezvous with the Queen Vics.  From here the way led past the two derelict tanks, round the QVR Lewis Gun post, snugly tucked away in a small copse by a tributary of the River Scarfe.  There in no-mans land beyond the front line trench the Queen Vics were left to toil with their pickets and barbed wire.  Their guides returned leisurely to their own quarters only to find that during their comfortable stroll with the Queen Vics the rest of B Company had departed to the front line and were also engaged in navvying.

The trenches nearer to the region of the Scarfe had shown evidence of much wear and tear from the attentions of the enemy.  In places the damage to the parapet had obviously been repaired hurriedly and here and there a hand or a foot in various stages of putrification protruded grotesquely from the side of the trench.  In one spot the parapet had been blown away to the extent of about one square foot thus leaving the head of the casual passer-by completely exposed to the German snipers rifle, no doubt already clamped in position.  A couple of sandbags would have cancelled out the danger but the ways of the army are past understanding.  The solution to the problem was the erection of a painted board which read “Keep your head down”!

Towards the dawn shelling commenced and the rattle of small arms fire not far away suggested that the QVR were engaged with the Boche at close quarters.  A sudden commotion to the right brought us to our feet and a voice urged everyone to “make way there”.  Pressing closely to the wall of the trench two heavily built NCOs appeared pushing and pulling through the crowd of men one undersized pale faced German wearing the large, round-lensed spectacles which, to the Hun, appeared to be an accepted part of his general issue.  Fear and apprehension were commonplace enough on the battlefield; we were all subject to those emotions in times of stress but most men succeeded in disguising their weakness.  Stark terror, however, cannot be concealed and the white face, staring eyes and slavering mouth of the trembling Hun were distressing to see.  As he was rushed past the onlooking troops he piteously held out to every man in turn a large, turnip watch dangling from a silver chain.  What he hoped to gain by the offer of this precious gift nobody could guess.  I was glad to note there were no takers.  Clearly he regarded the British as barbarians prepared to submit their captives to every conceivable atrocity, an attitude of mind probably inspired by the German General Staff.  I personally found no joy in the capture of that little man.

Rose 10:30am.
Harrison's pomade from home.
Guide party at night for the Queen Vics.
Heavy shelling.
Patrol fights.
QWRs take a prisoner - Prussian Guard.

Original diary entry

Original journal notes

"On the night of June 12th, an enemy party, consisting of a corporal and two men, who were patrolling from Cherisy to Vis en Artois, lost their way and blundered into the Battalion lines. A thick mist had prevented the sentries from seeing them, but a working party in the trench fired on them, and the corporal was captured by Sergeant Plummridge and Sergeant Oliver (D Company)."
Excerpt from "The War History of the 1st Battalion Queen's Westminster Rifles 1914-1918" [ISBN 1-84342-610-2]