Sunday 5th December 1915.
(*Returning from leave.)
Awoke to find we were moving out about 7:10am but we did not get up as we soon encountered a heavy swell, so I forfeited breakfast and read until 11:00am when the sea became calm. So I dressed and had coffee. Not many officers but quite a few civilians, I noticed we were not escorted by a destroyer.
I had one officer pointed out to me who was returning for the fifth time!! He was wounded at Mons, again at Ypres. Then went to Dardanelles and was wounded before he even landed and had to return home. He later was sent to Loo's and was the only man out of a party of fifty who was left. He is now returning after normal leave.
Arrived Havre about 1:30. I am writing this from hotel Tortoni where I will stay until late tonight as we must meet the "leave boat" and go by their train. I am now a day late.
Friday 10th December. Givenchy trenches.
An excellent night. Colwick (*Culwick) called me with tea at 8:00am and then lit my fire by which I dressed in comfort. What Ho!
Battalion marched off in morning. Nicholls and I were to go up in the afternoon so we walked into Bethune and got lunch, mounted our horses and rode along the canal to Givenchy. Then on to a point where we dismounted and proceeded on foot to our battalions position. The firing line is three feet in water and despite thigh boots they are most of them wet through. they are in for 24 hours which is quite sufficient, indeed I do not think they could stand a longer period. I inspected two platoons who had just come out and they were in a dreadful state poor chaps. We had all their feet rubbed and supplied dry boots, socks, hot tea etc.
My dugout has two feet of water on the floor, the bunk is fixed to the wall and so my bed is at any rate dry and I have spent good night. A good deal of shelling but none in our trenches so far. Machine guns play down the road but the fire is indirect and high.
Monday 13th Tuesday 14th. Les Quesnoy.
Our platoon in firing trench had to stand with water which in most cases came above their thigh boots. Their predicament was so piteous that at 3:30am when they had done twelve and a half hours the colonel rang up and ordered them to be relieved. I was ordered down to go down to Le Plantin and see that their feet were attended to. It was beginning to freeze and of course pitch dark. The platoons were in a wretched state. Most of them were soaked through, trousers and socks and it was a blessing we got them out at half time. We had braziers of coke going and in front of them we rubbed their feet with grease and gave soup etc. I have about six cases of trench foot during these two days, none of them very severe, though have sent them to hospital.
The general of the brigade, a damned old busy body came round and cursed everybody. He cautioned me against getting trench foot in the regiment quite disregarding the circumstances . Like so many of the "Sods" in the higher command.
We have had no casualties since we came here.
Saturday 18th - Tuesday 28th December. Bethune Red Cross French hospital.
Kelly saw my sick and then took me by car to above address, was very glad to get into nice little bed. Throat very sore, temp began to rise about midnight and as it rose I felt more restless and craving for more heat. The night sister sprayed me with coldish water, I felt much easier indeed.
This is the first day on which I have felt capable of writing up my diary. The soreness of the throat would have been bearable but reading and writing became an impossibility by reason of continuous headache which increased always with rise in temperature.
The two nursing sisters are delightful. It is wonderful how people can keep so cheerful despite living so long amongst sick people. My only adverse criticism has to do with under-staff of orderlies.
Today it is discovered that I have developed a thick scarletina rash all over me. I remember having it with my last attack, in consequence they think I should stay in bed.
Some kind, thoughtful presents from people at home today, a letter and knitted scarf from Carine Thorne.
*8157 Pte Dipple. Alfred. Loos memorial - 8441 Cpl Reed. Harry. Age 27. Pont.Du.Hem military cemetery.
At midnight a military band came into the hall below and played all sorts of jolly waltzes for nearly an hour. It felt quite cheerful and Christmassy.
I heard them strike up some distance away with some familiar Xmas hymns and it reminded me of old Grasmere (*childhood home. Allan bank)
* All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this blog is the sole copyright of the holder of the diaries of Reginald Hannay Fothergill.