Monday 29 September 2014

Will Sidney's War - June 1917 - The Bull Ring

Will spent the rest of June at Etaples, visiting the famous and dreaded Bull Ring for training or route marching on most days.

"17 Sun - Reveille 4.45. Break 5.45. Church parade 8 o’clock. My arm very painful. Moved to 26 IBD. No letters from home or Ethel."
"18 Mon -  Reveille 4.45am. Breakfast 5.30. Being inoculated. Nothing to do but nurse our arms for they are a bit painful. Nothing to do all afternoon but sleep. Not heard from anybody."
"19 Tues -  Reveille @ 4.45. B 5.30. Parade 8 o’clock. Skeleton Order. Visited the famous BULL RING (where they kill soldiers). Walked from No 1 camp to No 2 camp. Recruits training until dinner. All in @ 12.45 for patrol area & then went through listening reconnoitering support. Digging ourselves in. Finished @ 4 o’clock. Warm day. Dog tired."
20 Wed -  Reveille @ 4.45. B 5.30. Parade 8. Went to Bull Ring. Route march. Digging for new R range. Whilst I was there I had 2 10/- notes taken away out of my tunic pocket. Rained very heavy from 5-6.15 & continued about 5 min after for the night. I am right downhearted & if I don’t hear from home I don’t know what to do."
"21 Th - Reveille 5.30. Breakfast 6. Parade for route march from 9am till 12pm. Rest after dinner. Had a lovable letter from Ethel. Also answered it. One from Sun (Sunderland). None from home. As happy as anything now. Finished for the night. Answered E letter."
"22 Fri - Reveille 6.30. B 7. Parade 7.30 for BR (Bull Ring). Letters from E & Charlie & answered them. PT 1. B (Bayonet) Fight 2. Lunch 3. Musketry from 1 to 4. Arrived back @ 5.30. Some cigs from Sund. Finished for the night."
"23 Sat -  Reveille 5. B 5.45. Washing & bathing parade. Me washing a shirt & pants (ha ha). A letter & photo from Ethel. The photo looks as though I had been doing something I didn’t ought. Worrying what was the matter with Ethel for she was telling me her troubles & stopped half way through them."
 "24 Sun - Reveille 5.0. B 5.45. Church P 8.15. Writ an answer to Ethel’s letter. Bothered about Ethel. Have had a good cry."
"25 Mon -  Rev 5. B 5.30. Parade for Bull Ring 8am. 9.30 6 miles route march. Back @ 12.30. Lunch. Trench digging until 3.30. Left Bull Ring 4.45pm. Not received a letter from Ma all this time I have been out in France. Don’t know what is the matter. Heard from Sund."
"26 Tues - Rev 5. B 5.30. Parade 7.30 for Bull R. Took over trenches for instructions from 11 o’clock to 9.30 night. Cushy day. A bit too long without food. Got back @ 10.45pm. Bed @ 11pm. Very tired. No letters from home or anyone."
"27 Wed - Rev 5.0. B 6. P 8am for Bull Ring. Musketry from 9 – 12. Bayonet fighting 1 – 3.30. Left from B Ring 4.30. Finished work @ 5. Very hot day. No letters from home."
"28 Th - R 5.30. B 6. Parade for BR. Bombing all day from 9 till 3.30. Letter from home. The first. Wet night. Learned some French tactics."
"29 Fri - Re 5.30. B 6am. Par 8 for B ring. Route march from 9 to 12. Ceremonial drill from 1 till 3.30. Left Ring @ 4.15. Finished for day @ 5. Letter from home."
"30 Sat - Reveille 5. B 5.30. Medical inspection for up the line @ 10.15. Passed A & confined to camp. Letter from home, Ethel & Sun. Stand to for all the afternoon. 2 letters from Ethel. Am as happy as a pig in dirt. I am glad to see she is happy. I wish I was with her. Answered Ma & Ethel’s letters." 
As well as being a gruelling re-training regime, in readiness for 'going up the line', this two weeks in France for Will seem to have been an absolute roller coaster of emotions.  From being 'right downhearted' from having not heard from home, to being 'happy as a pig in dirt' when letters came through.

On 1 July Will is transferred to the 9th Battalion of the York & Lancaster Regiment.  His story continues in my next post.

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