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From: Bert Spires MM of Derby, 103 Brigade, 23 Division RFA



Great find by Kate Wills

Just discover this excellent site showing the illustrated diaries of Bbr Charles Bertram Spires from Derby, recording his war on the Western Front and in Italy.

Bert Spires Diary

Source: Bert Spires MM of Derby, 103 Brigade, 23 Division RFA

Excellent discovery by Kate Willis and definitely work alook.

and the sketches of locations and layout of the battery offer a good insight tothe operation of a RFA Battery.BertSpires Diary

Source: Bert Spires MM of Derby, 103 Brigade, 23 Division RFA

The diary entries are very interesting offering a good insight to the work ofsignallers in the Royal Field Artillery. The sketches of the of the battery positions in Ypres providememories of briefing every on the layout of the gun position, and vital for thesignallers, the communications plan.

Some snippets and thoughts from the diary:


After numerous parades and inspections was detailed to signaller's lines (Ltroop 11 camp).

It is amazed me many parades and inspections could be undertaken in a day -so no change there.

Second day had tests on buzzer, flags, disc and lamp. Flag drill in the orchardand station work on fields…. Had tests in Chateau on buzzer, lamp, helio,Semaphore and morse. Saw a Fuller phone for the first time.

Quite a variety of methods ofcommunication - these are highly skilled men. Flags, semaphore, morse, as well as the ubiquitous line is quite adiverse skill set.

Joins 103 Brigade RFA

CBatteryin orchard and men billeted in barns. Battery on manoeuvres. Detailed to beOC's signaller for 17th (Capt Warden). Had a full day mounted on open actionwork and was a dud at it.

Unfortunately you will not last long as the Battery Commanders Signaller ifyou are a dud, so not surprised at the next entry !!

Itransferred 'B' Battery/103 Bde

Into The Ypres Salient

Passed through Ypres, the ruined city, inpitch darkness. The Cloth Hall was a mass of debris but the cathedral tower wasstill standing and the enormous shrine on the eastern side wasuntouched.Passing through the Lille gate we traversed 'Hellfire corner','Shrapnel Corner' down by 'Transport Farm' and so to 'Bleuport Farm' ourposition in a belt of' trees.

'Bleuport Farm' on right of Zillebeke. Thefarm consisted of two heaps of rubble, cookhouse under one and the officersmess under the other. The guns were some distance to the right on rising groundand gunners and telephonists dugouts between the gun pits.

Bleauport Farm position

Signallers in action

Cuth and I patrol lines (telephone) up to thefront line on the 11th and Fritz chased us with Whizz-bangs for about 3 hrs.

We were in action for 7 weeksand it would need a family bible to enter all the details of this period.

Fritz continually shelling balloons withnaval gun. Interesting time watching observers descending by parachute whenballoons are hit.

We were in the most advanced position and used Fritz's concrete machinegun emplacements as telephone pit and officers quarters.

Rumour Control

All sorts of rumours floating about. Off toSalonika, Egypt, Italy, Ireland, Russia and Heaven Knows where else. Suppose wewill get somewhere.

Always someone who knows someone in the mess who bumped into a chap called Bernard who was at school with a chap at HQ who has it on good authority from someone .

Off toItaly

Manytroop trains of French en route same direction. Romanche, St Germain, Lyons(this is a splendid town and station), Serzin, Vetesse, Vienne, Vaugris,Valence, Marseilles, St Marcel, Aubagne, Bandol (beautiful town on bay in Med),Toulon, La Farades, Monaco, Nice

In an age when we take travel for granted, one must remember that for many in 103 Brigade RFA, the Army was the only opportunityto see many of these places.

In Action in Italy

Spent from 17-30 to 23-00 on top of mountainon look-out and to signal A' & 'B' batteries when rocket went up to let usknow that the boys had crossed the Piave and required the assistance of ourartillery.

RGA fellows afterstruggling with horses on icy roads for hours chanting "Its a long,longtrail awinding" at midnight. Sounded well in the valley.

Have just heardreason for chanting: RGA's knocked-out four Austrian batteries so have avengedtheir five comrades now in the soldier's cemetery at Montebelluno

Warned to proceedup line. Left WL 21-30 for gun position. One gun on motor lorry and another guntrailing. 3 cars loaded with baggage stores and detachments etc. Climbed MtGrappa to Asiago plateau, which must be the top of the earth. Entered zone ofsnow and pine forests. Beautiful scenery by moonlight. Roads good but all havehairpin bends one after the other. Italians and French in wooden huts. Arrivein position at 05-00. Deep snow drift 3' to 5' deep. Issued with alpenstocksand spikes for boots. Guns had to be manhandled up tremendous hill through snowand pine forest. Position beautiful beyond words. All billets built of wood andtrees. Log huts true Canadian backwood style. Splendid strong gun pits.Italians helped us pull up guns. Took nearly 100 men to get guns up and it washard graft. Italians and ourselves have glorious mix-up on lines ofcommunication.

Bert Spires Military Medal

Onceagain a reminder of a sign The RoyalSchool of Artillery Signals Section displayed

"No Comms - No Bombs"

which meant that Artillery support relied heavily on thebravery of men like Bert Spires to keep the communications working under fire:

15th/16th June 1918

Fritz opened up a terrific bombardment we had a hell of a time for6 hours



Bombr Charles Bertram Spiresof the R.F.A. has been awarded the Military Medal for gallantry in the field inItaly. The report states that "On the 15th of June 1918, this NCO was incharge of the Battery signallers. During an intense bombardment the telephonedugout had a direct hit and all wires were destroyed. He immediately ran out anew line to group headquarters under extremely heavy fire, and it was entirelydue to his gallantry that communications with group headquarters wasre-established."



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