Alexandra,  Princess   of   Wales's   Own
The War Diary of 2364 Cpl Joseph Parker Howe. M.M. Page 4.

Joe Howe's Identity Disc.

Wednesday, May 26th.
All quiet up to now. Only about half a dozen shells over on the road near us. On Wednesday night all men available, except sick ones, in the Company, a number of about 300 under Officers were told off to march to dig and improve trenches to the Right of Ypres. We were shelled both on road there and in trenches, shrapnel bursting just over our trenches. One indeed dropped right into a trench but luckily for our chaps it failed to explode. We got back safely to the huts again, where the cooks had made us some hot tea. The distance was about five miles.
Thursday, May 27th. A party of men, 80 in number, went tonight to dig in same trenches as previous night. No casualty among ours.
Friday, May 28th. All quiet. No trench work at night. Slept in peace.
Saturday night. May 29th. Most of Company available received orders to go to dig Support trenches from trenches we had dug Wednesday and Thursday night. We went by the road through Ypres, shells were falling freely in the town, houses burning and falling. Some of our Company wounded at Dead Man's Corner, nicknamed to its danger and death, crossroads. But we got back to Camp by another way. No casualty coming back, landing back to huts 4 o'clock in morning of Sunday. The distance about 5 miles.
On Sunday half past 10 o'clock our Army Church Chaplain held a short service in the Camp which I enjoyed very much, since we had the last service together at Steenvoorde about three weeks ago.
Hundreds of Regiment have crossed the Borderland. God has been good to us who are living now.
Monday. May 31st. Passed over very quickly. Only a few shells falling near. None hurt. We saw a zeppelin not far away on the horizon tonight. I heard afterwards of a raid being made same night on the coast somewhere.
Tuesday. June 1st. All quiet. Under Company orders. Physical drill, Rifle drill etc. One lad shot himself through the foot accidentally, cleaning his rifle. He was from Redcar. He took out full magazine, but left one in breech forgetting it and pulled trigger. Result shot.
Wednesday, June 2nd . All quiet. Just a few shells falling round a bit off camp. One or two parades for Company.
Thursday. All quiet in camp. Only Company parades etc.
Friday. The same. On Friday night, we left the huts in a hurry, going a mile or two further back to some more huts to leave ours free for troops going up to trenches.
Saturday, June 5th. We spent very quiet, doing Company drill and Rifle drill. We all got packed up to go to trenches, but it was cancelled.
It has now become noteworthy to expect rough times every Sunday and early part of week.
P.S. Noticed today at a farm dogs turning a big wood wheel, working a churn for butter. The dogs in Belgium and France are used commonly as beasts of burden, even being harnessed in little carts, but the poor brutes seemed used to it.
June 6th. On Sunday evening, we left these huts marching to dugouts and trenches in Sancherry [Sanctuary] Wood, a distance of about 6 miles, on a road on the outskirts to Left of Ypres.
When we were about half the distance one of the lads in Company got in a hole made by a shell and sprained his ankle badly. A mate and me were told off to help stretcher bearers to bring him on to dressing station in Wood. The path we came was only wide enough for two to walk abreast on and we were naturally left behind by the Company, they being able to travel fast in single file and we lost them. Another man was hurt a bit further on. That made us a Party of 6. Other Regiments were leaving the trenches and we were hampered a lot by them, having to stand aside to allow them to pass. Bullets were whizzing about us all along the way, but we got, however, after all, to the Wood after a tiring journey, for we had our equipment on and the man's rifle and him almost to carry. We landed in Wood a while after the Company and took the men and left them at the Dressing Station in the hands of the doctor. We were about done up.
On Monday June 7th, we had a quiet day in Wood. Odd bullets etc of course striking trees etc round about us and only odd casualties. At night, I was told off to go with ration party. We got there and back safely with rations.
Tuesday. All fairly quiet. Only a thunderstorm and a heavy rain making dugouts etc a bit nasty.
Wednesday, 9th June. Fairly quiet up to dinner time. Expect to man Front line trenches tonight. Praying God for a quiet time and a safe return to quarters.
We went to first line trenches on Wednesday night having a safe journey. These trenches are far the best have yet been in. We had no casualties up to Saturday night. We just had to mind the snipers.
We had just got then periscopes given out to every sentry in each traverse. The enemy's big guns only fired occasionally.
Thursday. All fairly quiet. I went with Party for rations at night. It was very dark and our way lay through woods. Some of us occasionally got in a hole made by shells falling, sometimes tripping over tree clumps and telephone wires etc. We got all safely back again.
Friday. June 11th. We spent day fairly quiet. I was told off to build up the back of a traverse in trench which was like for falling in, with sand bags. A Party of men were told off to keep me supplied with bags of sand. We had a longish job, but I got off all sentry duties that night and part of next day, the men being told not to disturb me while asleep for I had pleased the Officers and made a good job. Next day they came for me to do another part of the trench.
Saturday. All fairly quiet. Just an odd shell or two over us. Snipers were busy. We expect to get relieved tonight. We got relieved and went to some redoubts and trenches etc in "Sancherry" Wood. Aeroplanes were pretty busy today.
Sunday. and some exciting scenes were witnessed by Parties firing at some, but they got away safely.
Monday. 14th June. All fairly quiet up to now 2 o'clock. Just ordinary guards and sentries and inspections and standing to arms in Support trenches.
Tuesday. All quiet. Duties same as Monday, but were told of a big bombardment which was going to take place by our side against the Germans at 2 o'clock in the morning, so we were standing to arms from half past 8 Tuesday night till 8 o'clock Wednesday morning.
Wednesday. The bombardment came off and I believe our side captured some trenches also some prisoners. The noise of the guns was like the thunder roaring and echoed in Wood where we now are. Its wonderful to notice even yet, at the first sign of daylight how the birds commence their singing. We see here most of our old bird friends of England. The cuckoo passes with his cry, even through wood. The wood pigeons still nesting and cooing to his mate and even doves, birds of peace and quiet, still taking the noise of guns and shells and bullets whistling through the trees as if it came natural and taking no notice of same. May God soon give peace is all our cry and Victory over our cruel foe.
Another bombardment took place same day about 5 o'clock,making it the second in one day.
Thursday, June 17th. All well up to now. Few casualties, one or two of our Company wounded by stray bullets. Also one Officer, Captain Bowes-Wilson killed near dugout shot through the heart by a stray bullet. We expect to go to trenches again tonight. May God still have us in his keeping.
Friday. June 18th. We went to trenches Thursday night getting there safely. Nothing startling however happened during Thursday night, just stand to in evening and dawn etc. Sentries and ration parties. Same on Friday.
Saturday. Fairly quiet today. Usual duties and making dugouts in trenches.
Sunday. Quiet today. Only odd shots being fired. I was told off again with Party to finish dugout. Hardly know yet when we will get relieved. We had a few shells around us from our enemy, called Whizz Bangs on account of their silent coming, very sharp report, almost like shrapnel. They are fired I believe from trench mortars.
[This is not so. They were fired by Field Artillery guns.]
They haven't yet done us any harm, only odd casualties by snipers. One man through the chest, the bullet coming through a sandbag on top of parapet. Another, a Lance Corporal [1319 L/Cpl Elliott John. Home at Carlin How N Yorks.] had half his head blown off by an explosive bullet, another fiendish invention used by the Devil's Friend, The Kaiser. Hope his may be the same fate.Sunday night, 4 o'clock.
Monday. All fairly quiet today, except for us in trenches giving Germans a sharp quick twenty rounds or so at a given signal. I fancy they got a nice fright for they fired none, after we finished. This was about 1.30 in morning. Stand to, Lt Welsh got wounded in head, the bullet coming through sandbags. This is, I believe, the second time for him since he came out. I was on again building dugouts with sandbags.
Tuesday. June 22nd. Our Artillery shelled German trenches this morning and they replied with some Whizz Bangs in our trenches. One of our lads was wounded badly in leg, but trenches took no harm up to about 5 o'clock this evening. We expected to get relieved tonight, but I have heard we stay in till tomorrow now. We are hoping for no more casualties till we get back safely to camp
Wednesday. We had quiet day in trenches today. No casualties, till we had left trenches about a mile behind, when an Officer, Capt Leather got hit in chest seriously wounded. We marched back beyond Valamertinghe to some wood huts. We got there safely accomplishing the distance about 7 miles. Very tired and footsore. We had a rather heavy thunder shower early in the day which made trenches etc rather nasty and clarty. We have it here pretty hot during the day, but during the night it is very cold.
Thursday, Just resting a bit up to now. Hardly know when we move or where exactly and its grand to have a bit of peace from firing and trenches. We are almost out of reach of big guns. One or two shells fell this morning half a mile or so away from us.
Friday. June 25th. We left huts, after spending the night and next day, leaving them for some huts farther on, about 6 miles away near a village named Locre. We hardly know yet for sure how long we are staying here. We may stay perhaps for a fortnight's rest. Its been very nasty today, raining most of the time, with thunder hanging round as we marched along. We couldn't help but admire the farms on the road. They were so well cultivated, the crops cereal and roots and vegetables were splendid, good standing crops; the corn, veg, wheat ripening fast, oats and rye etc were excellent. Mangolds howed, potatoes howed and rowed up fine and looking very healthy, almost in flower. Tobacco plants looking strong and healthy. French beans growing fine and hops growing fast up the wires and poles trained like vines and hay in small pikes, almost ready for leading. The trees here are especially fine by the roadsides, being mostly elms and poplars, which growing on either side made a perfect arch of green foliage meeting in the middle. Of course the trees grow by the roads everywhere and the shame is the nearer you get to the fighting both crops and trees are completely broken up and destroyed and land uncultivated, growing wild. All for the Lust and greed and Devilishness of one, The Kaiser. May his end be soon.
Saturday, June 26th. Today was spent very quiet in camp. A party of men out of 12 Platoon were told off to go to Headquarters at Locre to burn refuse and latrine etc where troops were billeted, mostly Officers Quarters and Hospitals and to sweep streets in village, being proper scavengers, the village being under military rule and supervision, leaving camp 6.30 a.m and arriving back 5.30 p.m.
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