War Diaries & Comments

The War diaries of Harry's Battalion are well worth investigation. They are written at the time by the Battalion Adjutant and give the "official" account of the progress of around 1,000 men as they go through the war. They are brief, around a couple of sentences most days.

I have transcribed them from August onwards and will continue as long as the "Blog" keeps going.

The comments that readers have put onto the various posts are extremely gratifying. I've collected them together in a separate Blog so that they can easily accessed. New comments are always welcome. If any questions are raised by the comments, I do try to answer them there. BL

Letter to Jack 25th November 1917

25 November 1917

Dear Jack

I hope you are getting on alright as I am in good health at present except bad feet after a lot of marching. My address is the same as usual, except you must put Italy instead of France. When you write I should be glad if you would send an envelope and paper. I have had no white bread lately we have been on Italian rashing (Rations?) would be glad if you could send me a parcel I have not had any for weeks. Let me know how you are getting on. I think Mr. Thomas’s son is in the same division as we are. if so he has come to Italy too. I shall be glad to get home again to see you all. Willie is getting on well and gets a big boy they are all in good health and dad is about the same. I think he is a marvellous fellow. We have seen some fine scenery on our travels. We were 4 or 5 days in the train it is alright down south of France and very pretty. Write as soon as possible

with best love


Letter to Kate 23rd November 1917

We can see from the Battalion's war Diary that Harry is marching to the front line. The distances don't sound too demanding in today's terms but it is likely that the men were carrying their normal equipment and rifles all of which would weigh up to 30Kg (66lbs). On top of this, they were not well fed and had just spent 6 months in the Flanders battlefield.

On 23rd, the distance marched was one of the shorter ones, 7 miles, and they were in Billets by 1 pm. That would give Harry the chance to write the letter.

Nov 23rd 1917

Dear Kate.

Just a line to let you know I’m going on all right. I should be pleased if you could send some powder the next time you write the cake was grand you sent. I hope you get on all right with your fresh job.my address is the same only put Italy instead of France. Would be pleased if you could write once a week if it was only a line will write again as soon as possible.

With best love


Card from Harry to Jack November 15th 1917

Apologies to readers. A small note was wrongly filed and so arrived a little late. Fortunately Harry is Ok. and has shifted his war to Italy, arriving last Thursday, when he wrote this letter.
(A reminder - Ethel is Harry's wife)

Nov 15th 1917
Dear Jack

I am going on all right, will write as soon as possible. Hope the wedding comes off alright. Write and tell Ethel you have heard from me. Love Harry

The Train Journey

I have at last received the copies of the Battalion's War diaries for November. We can see what Harry and his comrades were up to while we wait for his next letter.

They would certainly have seen some interesting parts of France. The Rhone Valley, Marseille, Cannes and Nice would have been a little better in peacetime!

Follow the link to the Battalion's War diary to read the detail. BL

All change for Harry's Battalion.

On 23 October 1917, orders were received to prepare to move to an unknown destination.

Commander in Chief Sir Douglas Haig inspected the Division at Leulinghem on 31 October. (See the War Diary entry for 31st October)

On 6th November the Division, including the 9th Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment entrained for the lengthy move by rail to Italy.

Today, 11th November 1917 the Division arrived in Italy and started on the long march to the front line.

Passchendaele - the final score.

I would like to copy this blunt summary of the Passchendaele offensive.

"On 26 October the Canadians set out for their ‘Road to Passiondale’ in the pouring rain. Five days later General Plumer gets even more troops at his disposal. Meanwhile the name of the village has acquired mythical proportions: ‘Passion-dale’, ‘the valley of suffering’.

On 6 November the Canadians manage to occupy the village, or what is left of it. They can make no further progress and on 10 November the offensive peters out on top of the ridge.

The result of Haig’s ‘Flanders Offensive’ is distressing: after 100 days the allies have advanced hardly eight kilometres.The human toll is enormous. 250,000 Allies killed, injured or missing, a quarter of the troops deployed. On the German side losses are just a bit lower."