25th July 1917

Reveille was not sounded until 8am – some small recompense for the fatigue of the previous day.  Bayenghem was one of a small cluster of villages astride the Calais Road.  Formal parades were excused but heavy and persistent rain kept us immobile for the day.  Bored in the extreme we lay on filthy bundles of straw in yet another cowshed.

We rarely had any contact with the French people.  Indeed, in the small villages where billets were invariably unused cowsheds, the inhabitants kept out of the way.  This was understandable enough since three years of war made the presence of British troops in their midst emphasise the miseries and desolation that still lay ahead for France.  On this night, to our surprise, we had visitors.  Standing in the doorway, shyly peeping in at ‘les Anglais’ stood a quaint little party of village folk.  The head of the household was a very old man with long white whiskers.  Two old women and two very small girls about four years of age were no doubt the instigators of the expedition.  Timidly and silently they watched, ready to scuttle if their reception by the soldiers was unkindly.  The situation was easy to understand – grandparents caring for the tiny tots while father was away fighting the hated Boche and mother was away slaving in the fields for the sake of France and a small pittance to keep the family from starvation.  We had no food to give them until someone remembered that when army rations were scarce the Quartermaster resorted to his precious reserve stock and the issue of one particular commodity came all too frequently.  Canned pilchards in tomato sauce were no doubt nourishing food but as a routine diet the stomach revolted.  Even so we were loath to destroy food of any kind and we stowed each issue out of sight at the bottom of our packs.  Hurriedly every man delved – and between us we produced a dozen or more cans.  Even war has its moments and the look of sheer joy on the faces of the little group as they tottered off with their treasure was unforgettable.  Knowing our worthy Quartermaster was what he was, I am sure that had he witnessed the offence against army regulations by 8th Platoon B Coy he would have turned a blind eye.

Reveille 8am.
Wet all day - no parades. One village shop.
Billet in shed - straw, etc. Fairly good.

Original diary entry
Original journal notes