Another diary find...this one by Dick Flory, and obviously a great deal of work by his son Richard John Roads, not only copying out the diaries word by word, but also constructing the web site so we can all share the experiences.
As well as a record of Alfred Roads experiences, the picture of the progress of the war from snippets of information gives an indication of how the ordinary soldier understood what was going on.
Bombardier. Alfred Edward Roads. 18360 R.G.A.
Pre war Coastal Gunner serving in Mauritius and Sierra Leone, completing his 9 years service to the colours in January 1913, transferring to the Reserve. Remobillised in 1914, he was posted to 121st Heavy Battery RGA which was a New Army unit formed at Woolwich in October 1914. Equipped with 60 pounders they deployed to France in February 1915.
Topic: 121st Heavy Battery RGA
Bombadier Roads served as a driver, a reminder that although the Heavy Batteries were part of the dismounted branch of the Royal Artillery, the reliance on horses as as great as the mounted branch (RHA and RFA). He later manned E sub of the Battery serving on the gun line.
Ypres Salient 1915
By the end of February 121 Heavy Battery were in the Ypres Salient. The next two months were a routine of looking after the horses, sporadic fire on both sides, and for the Gunners the main pre occupation was dodging the German Shrapnel. The routine was broken 22nd April 1915:
Thurs. 22nd 1915
Steady firing all night by our Bty. went in Vlamertinghe. Several rounds drop inside our battery, several narrow squeaks for the gunners. early this evening we heard a furious bombardment on our left, later we hear that the Germans have broken through the French using acid to clear them out of the trenches. Although 4 or 5 miles away we felt the effects of it, all around our quarter it making our eyes water and burn this is our worst night since we came here.
The Second Battle of Ypres has begun.
The Battery remained in the Salient, and it was not until 1 year later Bombadier Rods got leave:
Sunday 7th 1916
Day of all days, going on leave. Inspected for lice by Doctor. 40f pay arrived at H.A.R. at 6pm, spent miserable night there slept in a draughty corridor till about 3 am, left by lorry 4 o/c for Poperinghe, after a long weary journey we arrived Boulogne about 11 am left by mail boat 12.30 arriving at Victoria station at 4.50. Got home about 5.40 found all well.
Sunday 14th 1916
Made up in Y.M.C.A hut CALAIS . Leave over, had a most enjoyable time journeys to and from being the worst part. We left Vic: about 7.20 yesterday, on arriving at Folkestone found we could go no further that night, as we were kept on the boat in harbour all night. we left this morning for Calais, and we don't know when we are going to move from here. We have been pushed all over the place. I now hear we are going to leave for our destination at 9 o/c.
Mon. 15th 1916
Back once more, had another rotten journey up on the rail. Got into Poperinghe at 4 o/c this morning, walked back to Bty. about 8 mile, I've had a sleep all day since. Tonight the Germans put over some heavy shell. We returned the compliment with our heavies. weather fairly decent.
Ypres Salient 1916
New years Day 1916 - Sat 1st Jan.
New years Day, hope this year will see the war finished. Usual shelling of the roads leading up to Ypres.
Thurs. 16th March 1916
3rd Anniversary of my wedding day. The second I've had out here, roll on when this beastly war is over, we will have to keep up all these lost days. There is nothing much doing this part of the line. Weather still keeping fine. Strong rumours our brigade is going to another part of the line. We have been in this position 11 months, nearly time we made a move somewhere
Somewhere turned out to be th Somme.
The Battery prepares for the Bombardment
Bty: Dragging store again today back at billets at 8 o/c. all guns in action. 750rds: of ammo: to go up today. several whizz-bangs dropt in valley. Found out young Currell from N.B.
Up to Bty: with ammo today, 1200 rds: Plenty of work doing, little rest for us the next few days. Enemy heavily shelling the Bray main road.
and the preliminary bombardment commences:
Lovely weather. Bombardment commenced early this morning and again this evening. Went this evening to the top of the hill to watch our shells bursting in the enemy lines around Fricourt. Germans not replying top any extent. Plenty of balloons up , all ours. Our guns brought down a German observation B today.
Bombardment going on no enemy returns. 19 A.B. Balloons up, the most I have seen. Picquet tonight (raining).
Plenty of rumours going around. Bomb: still going on, plenty of aircraft rotten weather.
turned with wagon for Heilly, went thro' Mericourt Ville. Lots of rain.
Quiet again intermittent shelling both sides. Rumours of all sorts very thick counted 24 observ: balloons up (all allies). Lovely day (Pay up)
Heavy bombardment this morning, hear the infantry are attacking. can hear nothing definite as to results of last few days fighting, but believe we are doing well all along the line. Up to battery with ammo: plenty of strafing going on. Our guns are doing good work and fairly eating ammunition. got back 11.30p.m.
The entry for the First Day of the Somme simply states
July sat 1st 1916
Lovely day. Infantry "went over" this morning. Our artillery going at it as hard as possible:.
For those to the rear, the events of that day would not be fully understood till later. The scale of the bombardment obviously had an affect on the guns:
July Mon. 3rd1916
Line a little quieter, expecting to move up anytime, only heavies left in Morlancourt. /guns nearly worn out, expect we will be going for new ones before advancing to new positions.
The new few months records the advance onthe right flank, guns moving up to Mametz, Flers, Baxentin. By Novemeber Bombadier Roads is in the Arras sector;
Arras 1916 / 1917
October 1916 Thurs. 31st
Disentrained at midday at Sav Berlette. Marched to our new quarters near Habarcq. Plenty of mud about, but roads are good. Bty: about 7 miles away.
December 1916 Tues. 12th
Name taken for leave, don't want to go for another week so as to catch Xmas at home. Three planes brought down yesterday.
December 1916 Sat 16th
No sign of going on leave yet. Cold, weather wet and miserable
Bombadier Roads made it home fro Christmas, his no diary entries from 16th to 28th December 1916 and he records:
1916 December 29th
Calais rest camp. Left London at 7.11am this morning, rather rough crossing over, marched to Beaumaris. Left at 6.15 next morning for Aubigny, arrived there at 9.30pm. stayed in church Army until the morning, got into Lines about 7am. Found everyone fed up only 3 gone on leave since I left.
However his wish from the 1st January 1916 that the war would be over has not been fulfilled:
1916 December 31st
Last day of the old year. Weather rotten. None on leave.
Nothing doing. Big do expected1916
The Battery engaged in the Battle of Arras, retruning back Ypres in May 1917.
The Battle of Messines:
June 1917 Thurs. 7th
Taken all our objectives, saw hundreds of prisoners come down. We started off at 3 am. Mines went up, we got going with gas shell, continued until about 7 am.
The remainder of the year records the constant straffing by German guns (Fritz keeps us on the jump again today. We are like a lot of rabbits or rats, running into our holes),the artillery duel with the British Artillery, and the slow advance. In October the Battery move to the Arras sector taking part in the Battle of Cambrai, by this time serving on E sub. The battles were tasking the toll on the Guns:
1917 November Thurs. 29th
Our gun condemned 6,209 rounds fired out of it.
1917 December Sun 9th
Ordered at 4am. To pull our gun out for exchange. Took it to Bapaume put it on truck at railhead, returned to horselines with carriage.
Christmas 1917 was not pleasant
1917 Xmas Day Tues. 25th
Oh Lp. What a day more snow, some rain, rotten dinner, rotten turnout altogether
At New Year he is back on the Somme:
1918 January Tues. 1st
Went to Barastre this morning for gun, then on to Albert, arrived there at 8.30. Rotten journey roads very slippy. Stopping C.A.hut.
but the beginning of 1918 did bring some respite as Alfred went homr on leave:
1918 January Fri. 11th
Left for Blighty at 11.30 got to Vic at 6o/c. Found everyone alright at home
Spring Offensive 1918
In March 1918 the Germans launched their Spring Offensive:
This morning Fritz let go, we were ready to move off all day. I got relieved off my first guard to go up with gun. Went into action left front of Fremicourt so think we must have got pushed in a bit. Two villages in our area were captured.
Gay times. Took up position in the open, working hard all night. Pulled out to go further back about 4 o/c. Got another position on left of Bap:- Haplincourt Rd near Bancourt.
All sorts of rumors. Plenty of people on the move H.D. Quarters and such like. Think we are holding our own, as our range has increased a little. Weather splendid but very cold and frosty. At night we sleep on the guns. When we are lucky enough to get any time. Horse lines have moved back to near Le Sars.
Into action behind Beaucourt near Mailly-Maillet after a very rough time our line of retirement was Grenvillers, Achiet-le-Grand, Miraumont, Puisieux Serre and Mailly. Coming to action at several places, but always moving back. Got to within 8 Kilo's of Doulliens. But returned into the line dropt into action here, fire quite a lot. Our brigade appear to be the only one in the vicinity. 12 heavy lost one gun. The Major was killed by a caterpillar. We stayed in action at several places until we were almost too late. Shelicker and the Major wounded, three men got lost no news of them yet. All called back off leave. Lost all our grub, forage the lorries, hope we have brought them to a standstill. Have got a rotten cold, could do with a good sleep, feel proper done up. One of our fellows shot a pig, some got pork for dinner, quite a treat. All the villagers on the move out of the villages near the line. Fritz has reached Lucirie? Just outside Mailly. Plenty of troops coming up. So perhaps we may push forward. Hope so.
Good Friday 29th
Digging in now, suppose we will stay here. The retirement has apparently stopped. A heavy strafe going on to our right. Showery plenty of reinforcements coming up.
The offensive stopped, Bombadier Roads with 121st Battery join the counrt offensice driving the Germans back till the news long awaited by all:
Peace 1918 - 1919
1918 November Mon. 11th
Jemappes range 5,400 yard. Fired 60 per gun at midnight. Message at 9am. Hostilities to cease at 11am. Great excitement. Days weather fine. Went into Frameries.
Bombadier Roads first peacetime Christmas since 1913:
Proper Xmas weather, snow on ground, had fairly decent feed on guard at 6pm.
The New Year of 1918 and Alfred is now in Germany
Still at Enderniche, having a fairly easy time. Several went on de-mob yesterday, more today. Hope my time will come soon. Went into Bonn last night.
thought peace, military durties continues, as the new year of 1919 finds:
<a name="01_01_1919">January Weds 1st
On guard tonight
His lat entry:
1919 January Fri. 10th
Still at Enderniche. Weather fair a cold. Demobilisation very slow
Demobilising was slow indeed, Alfred's service not ending till April 1919.