Monday 21 September 2015

Will Sidney's War - December 1917 - The Italian Front Line

I have been so busy crafting over the last month or so that I've been very neglectful of Will Sidney's WW1 story.

I feel a bit guilty really as Will has pretty much been with me since I started my blog back in at the beginning of 2014 and I really do want to make it to the end of his story.

This is the 22nd post about Will and his WW1 journey, transcribed from his own personal war diaries and other mementos that we found amongst Martin's mum's things when she died back in February 2014.

If you are new to Will's story and want to find out more, or you want to refresh yourself on what has happened so far, you can find all of the posts covering Will Sidney's WW1 story here.

In my last post it was 3 December 1917 and Will and the 9th York & Lancs had just arrived at Ciano in Italy, following a 12 stage, 100 mile route march, to join the support line.

For that first week Will writes mainly of trench digging and it being a 'cosy front line'
"4 Tues - Rev 6.30, B 8, Parade 9.  Cleaning the ground up & digging trenches.  Cosy front line.  Paper from home.  Thinking of my own darling."
"5 Wed - Rev 6.30, B 8, Parade for digging trenches until 12.30.  Parade 2o'c for instructing A Coy how to ???  No news from home or anywhere."
"6 Th - Rev 6, B 8.  Digging trenches for shelter in case the billet got shelled.  Ciano front."
"7 Fri - Still on trench digging.  No news from home of my darling.  I wish I could get a letter from her."
"8 Sat - Still digging.  Went into the front line to dig some trenches for the KOYLIs."
The KOYLIs are the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. We found this picture of the KOYLIs in Will's things. When looking closely you can see that the plaque states that this is 'C Company 5th KOYLI'. There is nothing written on the reverse of the card so we are unable to tell when or where this picture was taken, so we can't be sure that it was in Italy, but thought it would be good to share all the same.
It seems that the following week was very much the same with Will writing of more trench digging, no news from home and the front line being "very different from Ypres".

On 21 December Will writes that  he was ... "Billeted in Montebelluna.  Took bad with influenza. In bed for the day."

On 22 December Will was ... "Still bad in bed .... wondering how Ethel is going to spend Xmas."

Christmas week 1917 and it sounds like Will is getting back on his feet.

 "23 Sun - Still in bed."
"24 Mon - Still in bed.  A little better but not much.  2 letters & 2 parcels from Ethel. 1 letter from home.  1 from cousin Annie.  1 from Elsie."
"25 Tues - Christmas Day - Big dinner - pork, roast potatoes, cabbage, apple sauce. Plum duff & rum sauce. Tea - boil ham & the usual tea, jam, butter & bread.  Rum issue."
"26 Wed - Went to work.  Fritz bombed us.  3 or 4 killed & few wounded.  Nothing doing after dinner.  Chaps not back from work.  No mail. "
"27 Th - 6.30, B 8.  Went to sweep the roads etc.  Finished @ 4 o'c.  Very cold.  In bed soon after tea."
"28 Fri - Rev 6.30, B 8, Parade 9 till 12.  Lecture in afternoon.  No mail."
"29 Sat - Rev 6.30, B 8, arade 9 till 12.  Paraded to go to football match.  No mail.  Thinking of Ethel. God bless her."
We believe that this will be the Christmas card that Will sent to Ethel for Christmas 1917.  Whilst it isn't dated, it has had 'Italy' added to the front, so we think there's a very good chance that it is from this year.

There is a greeting inside from Will to Ethel, along with a write up of the history of the York & Lancaster Regiment.

New Year's Eve of 1917 saw Will take charge of a working party.  We don't know what they did, but they worked from 16.30 until 12.30 New Year's Day.

Will had now been away from home and his dearest Ethel since 9 June, over six months. How long would it be before Will managed to get back home again?

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