Alexandra,  Princess   of   Wales's   Own
The War Diary of 2364 Cpl Joseph Parker Howe. M.M. Page 3.

Saturday, May 8th, 1915.
On Sunday afternoon we left Steenvoorde in Motor buses, not knowing destination. Spent the night in some trenches by the roadside, a few miles from firing line awaiting orders. These notes on Monday, May 10th.
Tuesday. Still in trenches here. Expect to move tonight.
On Tuesday night about 8 o'clock we marched from trenches, a distance of about 4 miles, and dug ourselves in some hop fields on the Left of Ypres.
P.S. It was interesting to notice along all roads the number of little temples, with the figure of Christ in, a sign of worship and reverence. A Holy shrine to all Catholics.
May 14th 1915.
We left these dugouts in fields on Friday morning about 2 o'clock a.m. It rained all day Thursday and Friday and we all got pretty wet through. Some of us washed out of dugouts and feeling very miserable.
We marched to some Reserve trenches through Ypres. The state of the roads were awful after the rain. We were splashing through water and puddle all the way to the trenches, about 4 miles.
We stayed in the above trenches only a few hours and it was a good job for us all. They were far worse for water and puddle than the dugouts we left in hop fields.
We marched back to Ypres and stopped in some big cellars, just on the outskirts of the town. They looked like dungeons going underground and arched over, but we were quite safe from shells. We stayed here Friday and Saturday and next day. The rest did us all good.
The town had now been reduced to a heap of ruins and just as I finished writing letters home about 12 o'clock Saturday morning they sent a shell, then several more, just over cellars we were in, into Ypres. One or two of our lads who were in the yard cooking etc got wounded.
A lot of our Soldiers collected a few souvenirs out of Ypres. We also used water out of the canal for drinking purposes.
Tonight we are listening to gramophones. One or two fellows found them in ruined houses. Also violins and other instruments of music. No people in town, completely deserted, except by soldiers and perhaps an odd German spy. These notes up to Saturday night 5.30 p.m. Nightingales are even heard occasionally.
P.S. Just as we left dugouts in field on Friday, May 14th, from hop field, I had a fall in a gutter and wet as I was before with the rain, this fall just crowned all. I went in up to the behind in puddle and water and onto my back, the weight of equipment and rifle etc weighing me down. I had to be pulled out by two mates, the water dripping from my wet clothes and mud sticking on my putties and trousers like a drowned dog. The march was an awful one for me with my wet trousers dangling and hanging about my legs. And at the end of the march the skin was all chafed off my legs and I had to have them attended to and dressed by a doctor.
May 15th, A letter that Joe wrote to his fiancee this day has been preserved:-

Saturday morning.
Dear Mary,
I received your letter last night, Friday, and was delighted you may be sure. I sent a letter off about 2 days after the card, I believe. I hope you have got it by now. I believe some of our letters home are a bit delayed. It can't be helped though. We are lucky to be able to receive and send some occasionally eh. Well dear, I am still keeping champion. The weather here has been up to two days since very fine, when it started to rain a bit making roads etc very puddly. Its a bit better just now. I am sorry to say you seem to have more work than ever this year, don't knock yourselves up. Yes, you must stay on, else I might have a job to find you when we get through, as I hope we will before long. Give my love to all your folks. God has guarded me up to now. I believe the prayers of loved ones have appealed to God, our Heavenly Father, on my behalf, hence His care of me. May he still keep us all ever till we meet and take care of us, so after this is over we may enjoy a few Happy Years together.
Yours ever, with best love. Joe xxxxxx.

On Saturday night,we left the cellars in Ypres going about 5 miles to trenches, a few shells falling in Ypres and fields, just as we left, but doing us no harm. We had a quiet night and next day also was quiet.
P.S. By the way, the trenches we occupied here were just about 40 yards in place where I was from the Germans and the casualties we had here was by snipers. We were too close to their trench for shelling us.
One of the saddest things was when Lieut Orde-Powlett got shot, fatally injured. He was one of the most popular and best liked Officers in the Regiment and only 21 years old.
We left these trenches about 9 o'clock, Sunday night, May 16th, and then had to go and dig trenches in front of those we had occupied, digging till daybreak. We then went in some dugouts farther back. This now being Monday morning, May 17th.
The Germans were using their star shells trying to find out our doings and they made a bonny big flare and a grand light, their light being far superior to ours. Bullets were whistling past us most most of the time we were digging and returning, none however, luckily, being hit.
We spent two days in dugouts and were then called out to go to trenches. Wednesday night 19th May, about 8 o'clock. We got safely to trenches again, stayed there all night and next day. Only an odd casualty, not any of our Company though.
We left these trenches on Thursday night, 8 o'clock, May 20th. We all got back to dugouts safely.
We spent Thursday night there and on Friday morning, May 21st, the order was given us to march back to trenches not far from the one which we had occupied the previous day.
We had to splodge through mud and water up to our knees, this is truth. We had about a dozen shells over us, just now about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, no damage though.
This is the first time for us to go to trenches during the day.
We left these trenches 11 o'clock at night and marched back to Vlamertinghe, about 5 miles distance, to some wood huts there. We spent night in huts and next day, Saturday, 22nd May, also.
On Sunday, the order was given us to turn out to march back to some trenches about 5 miles off through Ypres, along the railway side we went.
After reaching the trenches safely, some of the men got off to sleep, when just about 2 o'clock, Monday morning, May 24th, the Germans started pouring in gas among them. Our men were soon awake to their danger putting on their respirators.
It was an awful time. They retreated from trenches, on the order of some horse soldiers, the 9th Lancers and Hussars.
Scores falling out on the way, overpowered by the gas fumes, a lot got to dressing stations and were looked after. A lot of our men were gassed and wounded, also killed.
It was awful to see how they suffered, some of the Company came back to huts at Vlamertinghe on Monday morning, Whit Monday, the rest landing about 11 o'clock at night.
A lot of men gassed stayed at dressing stations a day or so after being treated.
P.S. Personally I missed the worst of the gassing etc, being left two miles behind with the transports.
We had a few shells on Vlamertinghe about 10 o'clock at night. They did not hurt troops though. We had to get out to dugouts. Our Artillery did good work and kept the enemy from advancing very far forward though they had used gas, mowing them down as they came on.
P.S. This will prove to be Whit Monday, which will be remembered by men lucky enough to get back all their lives.
Tuesday, May 25th.
All quiet at huts. Men resting a bit.
Joe wrote to his fiancee:-
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