21st June 1917

Not until 9am on the morning of the 21st did we reach the ruins of Achicourt, formerly a small town a mile or so to the west of Arras.  It was here we were told that the QWR had suffered heavy casualties when a surprise bombardment during the battle of Arras reduced the whole side to a shambles.  The Battalion losses were particularly heavy in the Town Hall and a QWR cemetery was sited outside the town.  Apart from the rifle and kit inspection there were no parades but we all attended a memorial service at a French Protestant church.

Kit inspection was the usual pantomime as performed, no doubt, by the British soldier throughout the ages and we have it on good authority that the time honoured practice still exists.  In two ranks facing, each man displayed his kit on the ground before him whilst the platoon commander with NCO in attendance gave individual attention to the articles set out for inspection.  Since few men could produce their full quota of army issue, especially after a spell in the line, it was necessary to employ a little ingenuity if beer money was not to be wasted in making up discrepancies.  At the commencement of operations frantic signals passed from one rank to the other after which socks, brushes, cutlery and other miscellaneous articles flew through the air to the other side.  On the return journey of the inspecting officer down the other rank the borrowed articles were returned in like manner, together with any additional articles requested by sign language.  The whole blatant exercise was carried out with much joyous abandon.  It seemed impossible that the inspecting officer and NCO were not aware of the farce being performed under their very noses.  There can only be one possible explanation.

8th Battalion was billeted in the ruins of an estaminet open to the sky which on the day was gloomy and depressing.  On dismissal for the day our final injunction was to get “cleaned up”.  I tackled the job with little enthusiasm.  By the time rifle and sword were cleaned, boots dubbined and the assorted lumps of chalk from the Arras trenches, together with candle ends and other miscellaneous treasures, removed from the box respirator it was time to turn my attention to my puttees which were in a sorry state.  Those night excursions to the river for water had resulted in a layer of dried mud a quarter of an inch thick and hard as iron.  By this time the rest of my billet companions had given up their labours and were stretched out for the night on the hard stone floor.  I quickly followed their example.

Arrived early morning Achicourt.
Rifle inspection only.
Service in French Protestant Church ruins.

Original diary entry
Original journal notes
Google Maps entry for Achicourt here