31 July 1916

About seven thirty this morning four Boche planes came over and dropped twenty four bombs on us; we spent a most uncomfortable half hour, the worst of it is you can’t hit back. They seemed specially to go for the artillery horses and one plane devoted its attention to ours and the Essex, but by a great stroke of luck they didn’t get a direct hit. One fell close to the Essex lines and two within a couple of hundred yards of ours. The Leicester RHA lost a few men and horses, also the 157 Brigade Transport and the Royal Welsh Fusiliers caught it a bit. It was our first experience of high explosive, a good deal different to shrapnel. Considering the number of bombs dropped, the damage was slight. They made one particularly good shot in dropping a bomb right in the centre of No. 6 redoubt, but luckily there were no casualties.

The efforts of some of the old camels to raise a gallop were very funny. There was an armoured train on the line today between here and Kantara, two twelve pounders mounted ‘fore and ‘aft and several machine guns. Another troop train of infantry came in the evening, also a battery of Howitzers  (4.5s I think). I am responsible for the communications between here and the F.O.O. tonight.

Letter to Betty

263rd Brigade R.H.A.

52nd Division

Egyptian Expeditionary Forces

 

July 31st 1916.

 

My dear Betty,

Just a line to wish you very many happy returns for August 10th. I hope this will reach you in time for your birthday, but if it doesn’t, better late than never.

You must be getting a grown up old thing now. I suppose the hair stays up permanently now. You will understand I can’t send you a little token from this place, but perhaps after the war there might be “something she fancies”.

Things are still exciting here and we’re very busy. This morning during breakfast four Boche planes appeared and dropped between twenty & thirty bombs, some unpleasantly close to the horse lines. I was “fair skeered out of my life”. We may get a home mail in tonight with luck, but anyhow in a day or two. Thank you so much for the ‘Fragments from France’ you sent me last mail, they are killingly funny.

I suppose old Fuzz is now back, give the little knave my love. I suppose you are having some small tournaments at Puckhouse now, but must find it rather hard to get men don’t you?

You would have laughed this morning if you could have seen some old camels when one of the Hun’s tender little messages came rather close to them – it’s a fact, but I never knew it before, a camel can gallop!

Have you had any news of Jo lately, I shouldn’t mind exchanging weather with him for a bit, we hear France is nearly under water at present.

I wonder who you’ve got on the Island instead of Mr Davey – I expect you miss him very much don’t you. I suppose you are bathing regularly in Fishbourne creek now – it must be topping. I hope the dinghy and the Grey Lady are giving you some good sails – has old Packham taken you out yet? I suppose the old boy will last the next winter all right, I am hoping for some good sails with him next summer. You ought to get some hunts in with ‘Beagle’ Young this summer, and don’t forget to make him tell you the story of old man Carter and the Belgian Refugees.

I am longing to hear you’ve had some good team drives and the horses go well together – I suppose Ida is handling the ribbons this summer and old Fuzz manages a note or two on the horn.

There is no more news now. Best love and a happy birthday.

Your very loving Dick

30 July 1916

News came in early this morning from the 158th Brigade Headquarters that the Anzac patrols which went out this morning towards Katia had been forced to retire, and Turkish patrols had followed them up to within a mile of redoubts, but Franklyn, who was in the F.O.O., didn’t get a chance to open fire.

Church parade at Brigade H.Q. this morning. Went up to the F.O.O. at midday and was relieved by Kenning at seven o’clock this morning. The infantry have been hard at work wiring just in front of our F.O.O. all day.

Two monitors  were lying off Mahamdiya today, but steamed away in the direction of Port Said this evening.

We hope to get more fresh water here soon now as they have been fixing up a condensing plant at Mahamdiya, and are going to condense 26 thousand gallons a day. The Essex Battery came up today, they are out of quarantine now, but have had a pretty rough time of it. Fifty odd men down at the same time with paratyphoid , and two died.

The Leicester Horse Battery came up today.

29 July 1916

I had a good deal of trouble during the night with the telephone line from the F.O.O. to the battery. It was broken three times. An enemy plane came over at 7:30. Kenning came up and relieved me at the F.O.O. soon after eight.

There was heavy rifle firing from Katia this afternoon, also some gun fire. The Turks have dug themselves in at Katia. One of the Australian Light Horse Brigade had a go at them this afternoon but got driven back.

28 July 1916

Enemy planes came over about seven thirty this morning, but no mountain battery to open fire on her. News came in this morning that the Turks were shelling Hill 100, and later they were reported to be advancing in force on Katia and the Anzacs falling back.

Stood by at the guns for the rest of the day, but I think they won’t attack before dawn tomorrow. We’ve made a new F.O.O. which commands a much better view of our zone. We are in readiness now to turn out a mobile column. They are pretty certain to send one out tomorrow I should think, if the Turks entrench at Katia.

Franklyn is back from hospital, but the major doesn’t think he is fit enough to go out, so I shall be taking the right section into action tomorrow if we go out and Franklyn shows no signs of being fitter.

The men are as keen as mustard and longing to get out at the Turk. I am just off to the F.O.O.

27 July 1916

Enemy plane over about seven thirty this morning. The mountain battery did some pretty shooting but their guns weren’t made for anti-aircraft. They have left for Salonika today and they are going to send us some proper “archies ” up here, so we may bring one of those Fokkers down before long.

Got the detail out for the whole mobile column today; we shall be going out with the 156 Brigade when the stunt comes off. At present I am in charge of the right section but am very much afraid I shan’t take them into action as Franklyn will have in all probability got over his indisposition by the time our strafe comes off. But still, you never know your luck.

Situation unchanged today. I am in charge of the telephone communication between the battery and F.O.O. tonight.

26 July 1916

Our first excitement this morning was when a machine gun section of the 156 Brigade thought it would do a little practice into the bottom of the hill on top of which our camp is pitched, but when the bullets began to whistle round the mess tent, the major thought it was time to send down and stop the practice.

I went out on a reconnaissance this morning to Hill 110, which is south of Lake Bardawil and northwest of Ogratina. We heard an Anzac patrol having a slight difference of opinion with a Turkish one away to our east.

We saw a section of the Ayrshire RHA going out for a strafe as we got back. The major went out for a reconnaissance for positions for us and went up into the Ayrshire F.O.O. station, and said they were shooting hopelessly and we shall knock spots off them when we go out. We heard them shooting from here.

Franklin went sick this morning and had to be removed in an ambulance sand cart, but I don’t think there is much wrong with him. Brigade Headquarters are moving their camp up near ours, so they’ve all been in to mess with us tonight. A topping mail in from home tonight.

From what the general said this morning, we are shortly going out on a mobile stunt and shall try and give Johnny Turk something for himself.

No Boche planes over today; perhaps they’ve been busy overhauling their machines for a good bombing strafe tomorrow. The latest report is that the Turks have advanced their positions a little west of Ogratina and are strongly entrenched from there down to Mageibra.

25 July 1916

Kept in communication with the battery during the night. I don’t think the Turks will try a frontal attack now, we are getting too strong. Another troop train in this morning early.

About seven thirty an enemy plane came over, followed by a second at about eight o’clock. The mountain battery and several machine guns opened on them but without result. About ten o’clock a third Turkish plane came over, and was greeted with the customary ineffective fusillade. She dropped a message with long red, white and blue streamers attached to it, saying that they found it hard to distinguish our hospital tents and would they be more clearly marked in the future. They evidently mean to have a bombing strafe. The old Turk is quite a gentleman.

Another troop train this evening. We’ve sent back about twenty of our poorest horses to Kantara and have got mules up from the brigade ammunition column to take their place – great whackers, some of them seventeen hands.

24 July 1916

I slept at the guns last night. Had great trouble with the Indian camel transport, who tried to bivouac all round the guns. Saw the communications were all right at three o’clock, and took the horses out for exercise at five. Dug another well this morning, about 100 yards from our other one; the water is not nearly so salty and the horses drink it much better.

There is no change in the situation tonight. The Anzac patrols had a few casualties. The Ayrshire Horse Battery who are attached to the Anzac Mounted Division, went out with the 7th Light Horse and shelled the enemy trenches at Ogratina, lucky devils; I hope they send us out on mobile column soon.

Another troop train came up this evening. Up in the F.O.O. tonight.

23 July 1916

Stood by at the guns at 3:30. About eight o’clock an enemy plane came over; a hot fire was opened by the mountain battery but it was not effective. Our battleplane went up and both planes got so high up we couldn’t see them owing to the bright glare, but we heard their machine guns going and the enemy plane was eventually driven off.

Another eighteen pounder battery, also a sixty pounder battery, came up from Kantara this morning.

The report in this morning said the situation is unchanged. The Turk has firmly entrenched himself at Ogratina, also at Mageibra , and evidently means to wait for us to come out at him, so we are hoping a mobile column will be sent out in a day or so.

We have dug a new well behind our camp. The water is pretty brackish but the horses know by now it is that or nothing, so drink it fairly well. We moved the horse lines up near the new well this afternoon.

The officers from the 60 pounder battery came in to mess tonight.

A convoy of eight hundred Indian transport camels came up tonight, so it looks as if we may be contemplating a mobile stunt. The administrative commandant told Elliott tonight that we have now got eighteen thousand troops up here and only three fantasses of fresh water, so if the Turks cut our communications there will be another Kut here.