Monday 7 March 2016

Will Sidney's War - April 1918 - Mountains & Trenches

It's April 1918 and Will and the 9th York & Lancs are still in Italy. April saw lots of marching up and back down the mountains in terrible weather. According to the official Battalion war diary, this was via mule tracks, so I can only imagine the effort involved.

Will continues to think of Ethel and even refers to her as his wife at times, even though they are not yet married.

"1 April - Monday - Rev 7, B 8, no Parade on account of raining. Very very cold. No letters from anyone. Thinking of Ethel. Raining."
"2 Tuesday - Rev 7, B 8, Parade 9. Writ to Ethel, Ma & Leeds. Very cold all day. Nothing much doing after dinner time. Staff parade 9.45."
"3 Wednesday - Rev 7, B 8, Parade 9 under OC Coys. Hill climbing on Villa Verla. 3 kilos from Granezza. Rotten work. Writ to Charlie."
"4 Thursday -  Rev 7, B 8, Parade 9 for mountain climbing. Finished @ 12.30pm. Very very cold. Weather snow & raining all day."
"5 Friday - Rev 7, B 8, Parade for rifle & ammunition inspection. Letter from darling Ethel."
"6 Saturday - Rev 6, B 7, Parade 8 for mountain climbing. Moved off to the front line, relieved the 8 Y&L. No letters. Very cold weekend. Thinking of darling wife Ethel. I wish I could write to her."
In 1918, 1 April was Easter Monday.  In Will's other memorabilia we have an embroidered Easter card that Will sent to Ethel. We have no way of knowing if this was sent this year, or earlier on in the war, but thought it was worth sharing.

From the note on the back it appears that Will may have sent it a bit late.
The second week in April Will spends time in Noman's Land and returns with two prisoners. This account is confirmed exactly in the Battalion's official war diary, as shown below.
"8th to 11th Battalion in the Line. Our patrols were very active nightly and on the night of 9 -10 a fighting patrol consisting of 2 Officers and 20 O.R. succeeded in capturing 2 prisoners - just outside the enemy's wire at MORAR. The patrol returned safely with the two prisoners without loss. 2/Lt F Flory was slightly wounded in the foot."

"7 Sunday - One night in support. Moved up to relieve the KOYLIs in the front line. Very cold. Asiago sector. Shelling."
"8 Monday - Stand to 5.30, B 8. Working in the trenches all day 9-12.30 & ¼ to 2-4. Stand to @ 8."  
"9 Tuesday - Stand to 5.30, B 8. In trenches all day. Letter from darling Ethel. Went into Noman’s land on support duty. Got 2 prisoners." 
"10 Wednesday - Raining all night & day. Wet through to skin. No fire to dry anything. Moved from front line to supports. Still raining." 
"11 Thursday -  Stand to 5.30, B 6.30. Got relieved @ 11.30. Marched back from supports to billets. Rotten journey. Snow & rain, rotten roads, no chance to write to anybody. God bless her (Ethel). As soon as I have a minute to spare."
"12 Friday - Rev 5.30, B 6.30. Moved from top of mountain to the bottom. 6 hours walk all down hill. No letters from anybody. Thinking of Ethel." 
"13 Saturday - Rev 6.30, B 7. Parade for baths. Very long walk. Got back @ 12.30. Very hot, enough to boil us. Writ to Ethel & Ma. Went out on patrol & outpost. Rain all night. Very cold. Worse night I have ever experienced. Walked through clouds."
April continued to see more rain and bad weather and more marching orders for 'up the mountain'. It seems that Will has now made an application for leave and his 'bounty'.  I wonder if his request will be approved.
"14 Sunday - Rev 7, B 8. Rain all day. Inspection 11 o’clock. Pay day. Thinking of darling Ethel. God bless her. I do wish I was with her." 
"15 Monday - Rev 5, B 6, Parade full marching order for the mountain. Took us 5 hrs to go up. Very wet & tired. Thinking of Ethel. Raining." 
"16 Tuesday - Rev 7, B 8, 9 o’c Parade. DO CO’s inspection 12 o’c. New boots & …………. but when I get out of the line. No letters from anybody."
"17 Wednesday - Rev    B    P. Made a further applic for my leave & bounty. Nothing much doing. Rain all the time."  
"18 Thursday - Rev 6, B 8, Parade 8.15 for a working party. Letter from Darling Ethel. Answered it. (God bless her). Nothing but rain. Letter from home. Answered it."  
"19 Friday - Rev   B   Parade. Fighting (?) order for moving down the mountain to Fara, 35 kilos. Went through cloud & it rained till we dropped on bottom. Set off @ 5pm same day & march to a place called VILLEVERLA, 18 kilos. Very tired. No rations. Landed @ 12pm." 
"20 Saturday - Battalion came in @ 2pm dinner time. Cleaned up for tomorrow’s march. Bed 7pm. Rained every day this week. 19th walked through cloud & rain. 3 days march. 20th built bivacs 200 & 12 bell tents. No letters."
The rest of the month saw more marching, up hill and down dale, more rain and inspection by the Hoi Polloi, including an Italian General, which is fully documented in the Battalion's own official war diary.

We always find it even more interesting to find that Will's own personal accounts are totally backed up by the official record of events.  
22nd to 30th Battn in billets in ARZIGNANO. Training in every branch carried out with the greatest energy. Two rehearsal parades prior to the Inspection of the Brigade by GENERAL MANTOURI, commanding the 6th ITALIAN ARMY one carried out at TRISSINO under the Brigadier, the second under the Divisional General. On the 28th the 70thBrigade -less L.T.M.B. and transport - was inspected by GENERAL MANTOURI at the Flying Ground CASTEL GOMBERTO. 2nd/Lt F FLORY received the ITALIAN Silver medal 'for valour.'

 "21 Sunday - Rev 6, B 7, Parade full marching order for a 20 kilo march up hills and down dales. Rain all day. Wet through. No change. Letter from Ethel. In bed by 6.30pm." 
"22 Monday - Rev 6.30, B 8, Parade 9 full marching orders for Arzignano, 14 kilos. Very tired, sore feet, in bed by 5.30pm." 
"23 Tuesday - Rev 6, B 8, Parade 11am for clothing inspection etc.  New suit for me. Very busy. No chance to finish Ethel’s letter. God bless her." 
"24 Wednesday - Rev 6.30, B 7, Parade 9. Drill order till 12.30. COs leave 2.30. No time for anything. If I get a chance I will finish Ethel’s letter." 
"25 Thursday - Rev 5, B 5.30, Parade, Drill order for Brigade drill by the Brigadier from C Coy from 9o’c till 5pm. Writ to Ethel, Rosie, Elsie, Da & Ma, Charlie, Lily. No letters from anybody. Thinking of darling Ethel, bless her." 
"26 Friday - Rev 3.45am, B 4, Parade for Battalion inspection then marched 12 kilos for inspection & march passed by the Divisional General Babington. Got back @ 4pm. Very tired & footsore." 
"27 Saturday - Rev 7, B 8, Parade 9 for CO’s inspection of boots & cap. Parade @ 2.30 for CO’s inspection of drill order.  Letter from Eddie."  
In the last week of April, Will writes that the inspection by the Italian General went well.  It seems there was no mountain marching this week. This is backed up by the Battalion war diary which states:
"1-12 Battalion in billets at ARZIGNANO from 1st to the 12th. During this period training in hill fighting was carried on assiduously. A large field opposite the H.Q. mess of the 9th York & Lancaster Regt. was leased. Col D S Rumbolt of the 9th and Col Watford of the 8th York & Lancaster Regt defraying the expense. The companies were able to drill and exercise, and during their stay, a highly successful inter Battalion Sports Meeting was held. All the men were bathed and supplied with complete 'changes' at the Brigade Baths on two occasions. rifle ranges were constructed and all men practised in MUSKETRY. A special programme of work for scouts was drawn up including five nights for week night operations. A Recreation Room was established, games , concerts provided."

"28 Sunday - Rev 3.45, B 4, P 5, Drill O for inspection by an Italian General. Said our Battalion were the best in the Brigade. Writ to Ma. Rained all day. No letters from anyone." 
"29 Monday - Rev 6.30, Parade, running drill 7, B 8. Took a working party to dig public latrines @ 9 o’c. Parcel of cigs from darling Ethel. God bless her."
"30 Tuesday - Rev 6, Parade 7.15, B 8. Parade DO 9 o’c till 12. Communication drill 2 till 3. Letter from Jim & Ma. Answered them." 
1 May - Wednesday - Rev 6.30, P 7.15, B 8. Parade 9 o’c for training, retirement & attacking defending. No letters from anyone. Thinking of Ethel. Bless her."
"2 Thursday - Rev 6.30, P 7.15, B 8. 9 o’c Parade, drill order till 10.15. Then went for a bath. Tres Bein. Section drill, slooping arms by numbers. Finished @ 2. NCOs & P @ 4 for …….. Letter from darling Ethel. God bless her. Sent her a card." 
"3 Friday - Rev 6.30, P 7, B 8. Parade 9 for drill order & musketry & RTBF. NCOs parade @ 4 o’c." 
"4 Saturday - Rev 6.30, P 7.15, B 8, P 9 until … NCOs parade @ 4pm. Writ to Ethel, Ma, …… & Elsie. Very tired. Thinking of all @ home." 
On 2 May Will writes of sending Ethel a card. Could this be the Easter card that is shown earlier in this post? Or could it have been one of the numerous other embroidered cards that Will sent home whilst he was abroad?

For the rest of May Will spends more time with the Battalion on the front line and starts to feel not quite so well.  Read more about Will's time in Italy in my next post.

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