Alexandra,  Princess   of   Wales's   Own
The War Diary of 2364 Cpl Joseph Parker Howe. M.M. Page 7.

A German surveys the shelled landscape near Armentieres.

Monday. August 16th. Just bathing parade to swimming pools, which were the best I've ever seen. These were in Armentieres. Expect another inspection before going to trenches tonight.
Tuesday. We arrived safe to trenches, but tired. The heavy rains had made trenches and roads and fields abominable. Besides we had good loads each of us to carry beside our equipment etc. I had a box of provisions to carry up. Then we had a bandolier of 50 cartridges and a bag of rations to take turns with. One of these ration bags contained the rations etc for six men for 24 hrs. We are in different part of trenches to last time and they seem fairly good and up to now the Allemandes have been fairly quiet.
Wednesday. Today we had a man killed, shot through the head by an explosive bullet, while firing over the parapet of trench. Half of his face being blown off.
[This would be 1730 Pte Kendrew Alan, age 19, of High End, Brompton, N Yorks].
A few Whizz Bangs over. No damage to us though and a few shells as souvenirs from our guns to them. We have in trenches here a grand piano, which I expect will have been taken from one of the farms near, which has been destroyed by the Germans. It is a very good tone and some of our lads were having some music and singing in the trenches and it sounded fine, when all was quiet.

At the start of 1916 Joe was promoted and made notes to help in his duties.

We can see Lille from these trenches. It will likely go through the same fate as Ypres. It is, of course, now in the hands of the Allemandes.
A Railway runs right through our trenches and through the Germans, right into Lille. The telegraph poles are mostly all still standing, but the wires are all cut all along the side of the line, standing like spectres, grim, awaiting the time of their revenge, which will surely come in God's good time, for he is always on the side of the right against wrong. 4 months today since we first saw France and Belgium.
Today fairly quiet, our guns gave the Germans a bit more of a bombardment than usual and they of course sent a few Whizz Bangs which up to now 2 o'clock afternoon have done no damage either to life or trenches.
Thursday. August 19th. All fairly quiet. Usual trench duties and bombardments.
Friday. All fairly quiet except for odd shots from either side and big guns. A fine day too. We have had a lot of rain and it made trenches very nasty etc.
Saturday. Duties about as usual as other. No casualties.
Sunday. All about as usual and quiet till afternoon 4.30, when our Artillery and trench mortars bombarded part of enemy's trenches, doing a lot of damage. We could see wood and soil sent in the air yards. Our men were all out of trenches, except a sentry out of every six. I was on duty and saw all the bombardment. The reason for taking all men out of trenches except sentries mentioned was to have them safe if the enemy replied with Whizz Bangs etc. They were taken into what was called a Shell trench, made purposely for the job. However they did not reply to bombardment on our trenches, having got plenty seemingly of ours.
Monday. August 23rd. All fairly quiet today. We had some fried chips and beef, which we cooked in our dixies and enjoyed our breakfast at 5 o'clock in the morning. We will soon be expert cooks some of us, for we try many kinds of cookery recipes and practise they say makes perfect. However, I guess, none of our lads would make a row about cooking at home in a hurry after this this, if it was done by our mothers or sisters, I don't think.
Tuesday. All fairly quiet.
Wednesday. We got relieved tonight and went into billets in Hospice Civil in Armentieres. Arrived safely.
Thursday. 26th August. Nothing doing. Resting.
Friday. Only ordinary parades. Odd shells falling in town.
Saturday. Inspected today by General Plumer of 2nd Army Corps. Also hot baths in Brewery vats at Nieppe.
Sunday. We had a service in Hospice Grounds by our Wesleyan Chaplain. Also went to swimming baths in Armentieres.
Monday. Swimming baths again today. All Company. Usual inspectins. Also Route march.
Tuesday. Usual inspections. A long Route march through Nieppe and along the river side, the River Lys.
Went to trenches again tonight, 8.30 arriving there safely. We had a fairly quiet time for 6 days in firing line trenches. Only 2 killed and wounded.
Wednesday. 1st September. to Monday. All these days were fairly quiet. Usual routine and duties.
Tuesday. Sept 7th. We left firing line trenches. The whole Battalion, all except no 11 and 12 Platoons. Monday these two Platoons stopped back just behind firing line in some redoubt trenches, guarding Reserve rations, water etc. for 3 days. The rest of the Battalion going to Armentieres in billets at some School.
Wednesday. Usual trench duties. Guards and stand to at morning and night. We had a quiet time.
Thursday. Today we are having a quiet time, but expect to go into firing line tonight. We have brambles in galore on top of the trenches here in hedge. We also try our hands at some kinds of cooking, bacon and potatoes, beef and pudding, even made with soaked biscuits and currants and Nestles milk, our own rations.
We hope by Gods mercy to have a quiet time for the next 3 days in trenches. Also hoping for a speedy finish for good.
Friday 10th Sep. to Sunday. No 11 and 12 Platoons went in Support trenches for 3 days and all well. No casualties. Just digging etc. In front of trenches here we found new potatoes and leeks and boiled some for our dinners and they were a treat. We left these trenches on the 12th Sep, Sunday and went in billets in Armentieres in a carpet factory.
Monday 13th to Thursday. We spent there and then got orders to go to Transport field, 8 of us, bricklayers to build up winter quarters for men and pave stable floors for horses.
During this rest period Joe wrote a letter which has survived to his future brother in law:-

Dear Ted,
I was delighted to receive such a grand box of plums. They were delicious. They came when we were in the trenches and it was nice to get a plum or two after you got out of the sun, after being on Sentry and digging working parties. I cannot express my thanks to you all for your gift. You must also give my best thanks to the maker of the nice cake also enclosed. It was a treat and I have enjoyed myself greatly. We have just come from trenches last night for a spell and I hope we may have a quiet rest from the shells of the Allemandes where we are billeted. Give my kind regards to your Father, Mother.
Also to Mary and yourself my best wishes sincere. I never saw George Fawcett till the day after we came from trenches and I couldn't carry perishable goods like plums about for long, so I gave him Miss Alsop's message, minus plums. I may say they arrived in very good condition. Only one or two being a bit bruised, but none spoilt altogether. I am glad to hear you are all quite well in health. Also that the weather in the Old Country is much better and looking favourable for harvest.
You gave me some fresh news to hear of Jack Bradley being busy at Dobbs Hall. It was the first of my hearing. I expect it will be Ester eh. I wish him every success in his courting. I am myself in champion health, thanks to God's goodness and keeping powers. It is most wonderful the way I have been blessed and kept from harm and danger and death and I can't be too thankful. I only wish we could see the end of the war in sight. Its awful to witness the destruction caused by it. Also the sadness caused in losing so many brave fellows. We keep our pecker up though, through it all and will fight to the finish, knowing Victory will finally crown our efforts and that will prove our sacrifices have not been in vain, for the sake of our Country and Homes and Loved ones. so now I will close my epistle. With best love to all, I remain. Your sincere friend and comrade, Joe.

We started work in field on Friday, Sep 17th, and enjoyed the change from trenches to our own trade.
Saturday. Paving etc. Doing well from that date to the days of Oct 1st and 2nd we spent building and paving etc.
Friday, October 2nd. Covering in Buildings for men's quarters and building another one.
Saturday. From 3rd Oct till about 19th we were on with buildings etc and then finished and joined our Companies, who were out of trenches for 2 days and then went back for 6 days in trenches 69 and 70 near Armentieres. All went well during 6 days in for trench duties and digging etc.
This being Oct 18th, we got relieved and again went to billets in Armentieres in factory Storehouse for 2 days. Then went in to trenches again for other 6 days, trenches 20, 67 and 68, Supports. We had to do digging and stand to at nights and mornings. For about 2 days I was employed building a fire place and chimney in 6 Officers Mess Room and I think it turned out a very good job. We had no casualties up to tonight, Oct 25th.
We expect to get relieved tomorrow night. May God keep us safe.
Tuesday, October 26th. We got relieved tonight and went to billets in Armentieres factory Warehouse for 2 days.

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