Monday 28 September 2015

Will Sidney's War - February 1918 - Day to Day Life on the Italian Front Line

There haven't been any photos of Will or Ethel in my posts for a while now and I thought it would be nice just to remind you of what they both looked like.

Will's diary for January has no entries at all, though the Battalion war diary shows plenty of activity including training, drills and relief for the front line, as can be seen from the two excepts from the official Battalion war diary below ....
"5th - 12th Bn in the line. During this period in spite of snow and exceptionally cold weather several attempts were made by patrols to cross the river and to reach the enemy's line but owing to the swiftness of the stream its depth and the lack of any chart, no crossing could be effected for some time. Towards the end of our tour in the front line however 2/Lt Flory with a patrol succeeded in definitely locating a sufficiently shallow spot in each stream to enable a continuous crossing to be made and this route has been definitely established. On the first occasion of a patrol crossing the entire bed of the river it was heavily fired upon by a post and withdrew but this post as was ascertained later was removed to a position further East."
"21st - 31st Bn in the line. This period has been distinguished for the great deal of work done in the connection with the improvement and strengthening of our trenches and dug outs also for the nightly patrols. Officers & men have been continuously practised in patrol the river bed at night and the negotiable spots of the various streams have been pointed out to each officer and man. Enemy posts have been engaged but we have suffered no casualties up to date. A miniature range has been built and every man has been trained and practised with the rifle whilst the promotion of Inter Company and Inter Platoon Competitions has interested and encouraged the men tremendously."
It is 4 February before we see Will's first entry in his 1918 diary, which is even smaller than the 1917 one ...
He tells us that he has put in for a month's leave, but no mention of when this might be and that it is his 5th year service anniversary on 8 February.
The writing in this diary is really tiny and hard to decipher in places, but I have done my best to transcribe Will's entries for the rest of the month.  You will see the likely reason for the entries only just beginning on 10 February ...
"10 Sunday - Church Parade @ 9.45.  Parade for football match 1.40pm.  Got a letter & this book & answered it.  God bless her."
"11 Monday - Travelled from Biadene to support to the French @ Possagno.  Att to KRRs for instructions in trenches."
"12 Tuesday - Rev 6, Brft 7.30.  Marched to reserve lines to look round & got all things down.  Went round all gateposts & viewing the wire."
"13 Wednesday - Br 8am.  Parade under our own officer & went to view front line & outposts for information.  Went for a stroll up Mt Tomba  Writ to Ethel.  Bless her."
"14 Thursday - Rev 6, B8.  Started for the top of Mt Tomba @ 9.45.  Landed on top @ 12.45 mapping view of Austrians line of V???? and two other villages.  Can't get a letter off now as with another Batt."
"15 Friday - Rev 6, Parade 9.  Went round the outposts & got back @ 12.  Packed up & marched to Crespano for new billets.  Snowing very heavy.  Thinking of Ethel."
16 Saturday - Rev 6, B8.  Attached to the Middlesex Regiment.  Looking at scouting round for the nearest way to work.  No letters from anyone." 

"17 Sunday - Batt joined us @ 12.45am.  They all looked very tired.  Heavy marching, wet underfoot, sludgey.  Answered Ethel's letter."
"18 Monday - Reveille 6, Break 8.  Clean everything up for inspection.  Parade 9.45am. Parade again @ 11.50am for clothes.  Rest after dinner until 4 o'clock. Tea @ 4.15pm. No letters from anybody.  Bed @ 6.30.  Billet inspection by CO 3pm."
"19 Tuesday - Rev 6.30, B 7.  Parade drill order for working party with REs @ 8.30.  Worked right through till 3 without meal.  Gave my paybook in for new rate of pay.  Letter from home with 2 letters off Ada & Minnie."
"20 Wednesday - Rev 6. B 8, Bath 8.30, Parade 9.30.  Monkey drill till dinner.  Letter from Rosie (Leeds).  Answered it, thanking her for cigs.  And one from Ma.  Took the platoon in P.J. & B.J."
"21 Thursday - Writ to Ethel.  Rev 6, B 7, Parade 8.15am for working party.  Break 12 till 1.  Finish 3pm.  Home @ 3.30.  Letter from Ma.  Answered it & wrote to Ethel. Bed @ 6pm.  Platoon under arrest for complaining."
"22 Friday - Rev 6, B 7.  Parade for working party @ 8.  Put on fire picket.  No news from anyone.  Thinking of darling Ethel.  God bless her.  Bed 6.30.
"23 Saturday -  Rev 6, B 7, P 7.45 for work with the REs in the red line.  Letter from Darling Ethel.  Rumours of moving.  No chance to write to her, Worst luck.  Bed every night @ 6.30pm.  Building parapets up, very tiring work.  Hill climbing & skirmishes galore."
"17 Sunday - No chance to answer Ethel's letter whilst on the move.  Rev 6, B 8, Church Parade 9.15.  General clean up of everything.  Kit inspection 2pm by the officer."
"25 Monday - Rev 6, B 7, Parade full marching order 7.30.  Left Veatta for Resen.  Landed @ 12.40pm.  Foot inspection 2 o'c.  Football match 3pm.  13914 v 15916 (4-1)."
"26 Tuesday - Rev 6.30, B 8, Parade 9.15 FM order.  Left Resen for Pederiva.  Landed @ 12.30pm, very tired.  Letter from Ethel & answered straight away.  God bless her, I wish she was here."
"27 Wednesday - Rev 5.30, B 6.  Parade battle order for 7.15 to fire on range.  Had dinner & tea there.  Got back @ 6.45pm.  Very tired, in bed by 7.  Thinking of my own darling Ethel.  Bless her."
"28 Thursday - Letter from darling Ethel, no chance to answer it.  Rev 5, B 7.15.  Parade 8.30 for gyms.  Dismissed 10.15.  Fall in for range @ 11.30.  Rotten day, very cold. Capt got us a parade @ 1/4 to 9 @ night ......"
"1 Friday - Rev 6, B 8, Parade battle order for 9 o'clock.  Went through Biadene to Pall Mall & there we practiced going over the top. Got back @ 1.30.  Bath 3.30."
"2 Saturday - Inoculated.  Rest for 48 hours.  Plenty of writing to do.  Spend all day writing to dearest Ethel, 21 pages.  Writ to darling Ethel a long letter with a cross from Mt Tamba.  Started writing from 2 o'c until 7 o'c."
We found this set of humorous postcards within Will's things.  We can only assume they were collected on his travels through Italy.  As usual he has included comments on the reverse for Ethel.
You can read more about Will's time in Italy in my next post.

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