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Henry Dundas, Scots Guards, a Memoir
Chapter III. France. May to December 1916


I. THE YPRES SALIENT

Whatever walk in life Henry might have chosen had he survived the War, it is of course principally as a soldier that he showed his capacity as a man of action; and in the history of his famous Regiment, when its Chronicle of the War comes to be written, his name will doubtless find due place and recognition. If this book is to have any general interest, therefore, beyond the circle of those who will read it for what they knew their friend to be, it will lie principally in the letters which follow, and which in themselves constitute a sketch of the doings of the Guards Division from the spring of 1916 until within six weeks of the end of the War. They may also have interest as a description of the life which was led at the front by a young Public Schoolboy officer with no military training or predilections, but who through force of character and love of his men evinced from the first qualities of leadership.

The letters were almost without exception written to his mother and me, and they are of course intensely personal and constantly critical in tone. But in regard to this his views were doubtless for the most part only those of the majority of his brother officers, and, as he said himself, some of his outbursts may be attributed to the need for “safety-valving.”

It must also be constantly kept in mind that they cover a period during which the writer would normally have been spending his last year at school, or enjoying the irresponsibility of his first few terms at Oxford.

A year and three-quarters later (February 1918), when, in Henry’s words, “ the extreme quiet of our present sector necessitates some activity to prevent death from boredom,” he began to write a Chronicle of his time in France, and he concluded a short Foreword by the remark that it would be interesting to see how long he should be able to keep it going.

In point of fact, the Chronicle, which was to be written for his own eyes and for one or two of the most intimate of his friends, extends only to a few pages, but it enables me to record in his own characteristic words—words which testify to his wonderful power of looking facts in the face —the events which led up to his leaving for France and joining the First Battalion of his Regiment in the Salient.

“I joined," he writes, “the Scots Guards at Wellington Barracks on 4th September 1915. I was 19—i.e., of an age to come out—on 5th February 1916, and shortly after that date Eric Mackenzie, then Adjutant at Wellington, asked me if I would like to go out then, or ‘wait for the warm weather,’ as he put it. I was enjoying myself not a little in London at the time, and as I have never suffered from any delusions on the subject of the duration of the War, I hedged and said I would do exactly as ordered, but didn’t want to decide myself. So Eric left it at that. Though never actually appalled at the prospect of active service, I was, I must confess, rather less enthusiastic about it than I ought to have been—i.e., nowadays I should expect a different attitude in my company officers, and should probably get it. So when just before Easter I was detailed for the Training Company at Corsham, I realised ‘that the end was near.’ Indeed, there was little buoyancy in my inmost heart when I realised that I was ‘for it.’ Corsham I pass by —I could write a book about that alone—and get on to the day of my departure—Friday, the 26th (I think) of May. I was going out with the people who had been with me at Corsham—Leslie Childers, Gold, and A. R. W. Menzies. As we were going alone, our servants had to follow by the next draft, which always seems to me to be rather a futile arrangement. We left Waterloo by the 2 p.m. train, and duly arrived at Southampton and got on board our ship. An absolutely perfect day, and one strongly conducive to the semi-sentimental, semi-apprehensive reflections likely to be engendered by the occasion.

“I had been very fairly sane in the buying of kit, though about as little prepared as the ordinary neophyte for the conditions 'at the War.’ 4 Dumps ’ Coke’s advice—'Take a couple of very cheap shirts, wear them for a few weeks, and then get more sent out to save washing’—I found to be applicable to 1914 rather than the date of my apprenticeship. I had made up my mind to act on the safe plan of waiting to judge what I really wanted from actual experience, and in the meanwhile stealing or borrowing anything necessary.

“We had a perfect crossing, but a long one— reaching Havre at 7 in the morning. I knew all my companions very well by now after one month at Corsham.

“As always with officers joining the Scots Guards in France for the first time, we knew almost nil about the two Battalions or the Guards Division, or anything else that we ought to have been instructed in. I did know who commanded the Division, and who commanded our two Battalions; but as to what Battalions the Division was composed of, who commanded the Brigades, &c., the whole thing was a sealed book to me and to us all—and still is to all young officers coming out.

“The question which interested us chiefly was, which Battalion should we go to? Such considerations as, which was the best C.O. didn’t affect us, as we didn’t know in the least what qualities were necessary for a good Battalion Commander or the reverse. I wanted to go to the 1st Battalion, for the reason that Eric Mackenzie was just going out to it as Adjutant, and though not yet on intimate terms with him, I had already marked him A+. After the various reportings to A.M.Q.O.’s and other pompous, self-important jacks-in-office—nearly all of whom seem to take a real joy in making people uncomfortable—people going on leave will bear witness to the truth of this—we received our orders, which were to report to the Base forthwith. Our kit was sent up, and it was not without trepidation that I saw the last of mine as it was flung upon a lorry. ‘There’s nae pairtin’s,’ &c. The Base is at Harfleur, about five miles from the centre of Havre, and connected by rather moderate trams with the latter. We scorned the trams, and went up in an ambulance—a prophetic journey in view of the countless ‘long-jumps’ to come on almost every road in France and Flanders. Even at that stage I realised the fundamental principles of ‘lift-cadging,’ which are—

(a) To stand in the very middle of the road, so that the car has to run over you or stop.

(b) To salute incessantly till safely seated.

(c) Never to say, ‘Are you going to A?’ but rather, ‘Can you help me on a bit?’ or something non-committal, and then stop the thing when it suits, you.”

After describing the Base and its officers, he proceeds :—

“It was during our first few hours at the Base that a feeling of unrest began to grow—a longing to get to the seat of the War, now that one had got through the preliminaries of leaving England and taking the first real plunge. Sol was extremely anxious to get up to my Battalion—whichever it might be—as soon as possible. £ Now that one is out here, one might as well go the whole hog ’ sort of feeling, so it was with the greatest interest that we waited to see to which Battalions we should be posted. It soon came out—the next morning, in fact—and panned out very well,— Menzies, Gold, and Percy Wallace—whom we found at the Base—posted to the 2nd Battalion —and Leslie and I to the 1st Battalion. The usual method of procedure for officers coming out was for them to spend a short time—in some cases quite a long time—at the Base, then go up to the Entrenching Battalion, and then to their units. In our case the first step was soon got over. We got orders to go to the Entrenching Battalion the same day that we were posted, and the next evening we left the Base, Leslie, Menzies, Wallace, and I, leaving Gold fuming behind. But he was destined to do us down.

“Several other people went ‘up the fine’ with us—including a nice man called Cosmo Gordon in the Grenadiers, who had been a librarian and was newly married. I had got a temporary servant till Witt should come out, a stout fellow, but better in a mine-shaft than a tent, I should say.

“We left Havre at 2 in the morning and arrived at Rouen—normally a two-hours’ run in a fast train—at 9 or thereabouts. This was good going compared to some ‘ trains Hr have known.’ At Rouen we had several hours, and went into the town to wash, lunch, &c., all of which we did very excellently at the Hotel de la Poste, and then Gordon and I wandered round the town, an exploit I was to repeat in November with one of my greatest friends—now gone like most of the others—Eric Greer. We got into the train again at 3 in the afternoon, and after a tremendous journey round by Abbeville, reached Amiens the next afternoon, and so to Mericourt-Ribemont, the then railhead. There we left the train, and our kits were heaped on limbers, and we ‘footed it’ to the Entrenching Battalion about 5 miles away, in a wood called the Bois des Tailles about 3 miles west of Bray.”

He describes the Entrenching Battalion in a passage which is evidently one of those specially intended for his own eyes, and he arrives at the conclusion that the raison d’etre of the place is to make every one keen to join their own Battalions.

Here he stayed for three weeks. The only episode during the period worthy of mention was the 4th Army’s Fourth of June dinner at the Godbert in Amiens. One hundred and eighty were present. The Chairman made a “typical General’s speech: ‘When I was at Eton I am afraid the only work I did was in shirking my Latin Proses, . . . &c.’ (Cries of ‘Oh! Sir! ’ and hearty guffaws.) Poor chaps, most of them died during the next three months. I sat opposite and They both shrieked with laughter at everything I said, so I enjoyed myself.”

“About the 20th of June the 1st Battalion was engaged at Hooge—taking over the line from the Canadians, who had had the hell of a time in Sanctuary Wood. Schiff was killed, and Mann and Brand both wounded, so the summons was sent out and Leslie and I were ‘for it ’ in earnest. How pleased I was! Just to make the picture complete we left the Entrenching Battalion at 4 a.m., but what matter? The usual day’s journey supervened. Once again we stopped most of the night at Abbeville—whenever I hear an engine whistle at night now I think of Abbeville—and I remember dining with one Chapman bound for the 2nd Battalion, and killed on the 25th September—very gallant.

“From Abbeville we took wing about 3 A.M., and morning saw me cleaning my teeth at Calais —and then the old familiar round, though so new and enthralling then—Watten, St Omer, and Hazebrouck—where we lunched. Witt had joined me at the Entrenching Battalion, and now informed me that he had seen Esme Gordon-Lennox’s servant at Hazebrouck, who said that the latter had got a Brigade, and that Norman Orr-Ewing was even now on his way out to command the Battalion. Only the first part of his story was true.

“About 4 we ‘hit the trail’ again—this time in a train drawn by one of those rawching great R.O.D. tank - engines, with brazen domes. An hour in the train, and then Poperinghe and the last lap. An unusually civil R.T.O. directed us to our Battalion—which, so he said, had just come out—and quite right he .was. Servants were left at the station, and Leslie and I started off along what is now probably the most famous road in the world—the Vlamertinghe road. After asking the way about a dozen times — more from nervousness than anything else—we at last took the proper turn off to the left, and there, in Ack Thirty Forest, we found our camp — better forgotten — and the end of our Odyssey.”

Major Miles Barne was temporarily commanding the Battalion, and Henry describes their introduction to him at the hands of Captain Cecil Trafford, the Transport Officer :—

“Other introductions followed. Hugh Ross, commanding R.F., with Dudley Shortt, Champion, and Bobby Abercromby, were all well known to me, as was Guy Leach, whom I had taught to bomb at Southfields, and now found as Bombing Officer of the Battalion. Martindale, too, of L.F. I knew, also its commander, old Lionel Norman, and Ronny Powell of 4 C ’ Company. Calverley Bewicke, commanding 4 C ’ Company during the absence on leave of 4 Luss ’ Colquhoun, its proper commander, [Captain Sir Iain Colquhoun, D.S.O., of Luss. He subsequently left to command a battalion of the Leicestershire Eegiment, and afterwards the 13th Iloyal Scots.] I knew slightly. There only remained 4 B ’ Company, where I found Miller under the command of Tim Orr-Ewing, brother of Norman. Leslie was posted to L.F., and I found myself in 4 B,’ but doing duty temporarily with 4 C,’ the other officer of which was Malcolm Menzies. And now a few words as to the military situation as it affected the Battalion. The 1/S.G. had just come out of Hooge, whither they had been pulled up from Bollezeele to relieve the Canadians (see above). This had been accomplished without serious disaster by the 2nd Guards Brigade (3/G.G., 1/C.G., 1/S.G., and 2/1.G.), who were now out for 8 days, at the end of which period they were to relieve the 1st Guards Brigade, who were holding the extreme left sector of the British line in France, with the 3rd Guards Brigade on the right. At the end of 8 days the 2nd Brigade would go into the line for 16 days, the 1st Brigade come out for 8 and relieve the 3rd Brigade, who in their turn would come out for 8 and then relieve us, and so on. The Ypres salient had long been known as the worst part of the British front; and as the Division had been in there since early in March—losing from 3000-4000 a month in casualties, sick, &c.—they were getting rather tired of it. We had never been in the actual sector into which we were going before, and so I started all square as regards going into a new line.

“The whole Division had just come back from practising for an attack on the Pilkem Ridge— which fronted the position—billed to take place about August 14; but the tremendous cost and comparative ill-success of the early stages of the Somme relegated all other enterprises to the background-—except perhaps the notorious ‘extensive raiding operations, in which we captured 150 prisoners E. of Armentieres,’ which was the charmingly ingenuous ‘official’ account of a properly organised attack by three Divisions of the newly-formed II. Anzac Corps, which ended in a complete fiasco, and cost us from 3000 to 4000 casualties.

“Going into the line for the first time is rather thrilling—and, I think, essentially the new sensation produced by the War. For a long time I had been imagining what the line would be like, and viewing the picture ‘with interest and concern,’ to quote a famous phrase of Alan’s. During the time we were out we had a most pleasant time. The weather was perfect and the camp good, and there was a good deal of cricket and football—the latter played by the private soldier, especially the Scot, the whole year round, irrespective of the weather. Of Militarism there was none—for the theory of doing nothing when out of the line was then in force. Of course I was far too incompetent and ignorant myself at the time to appreciate the situation. Indeed I had got into the absurd habit of rather looking down on smartness as being ‘Grenadier’ and offensive. At this time, however—June 1916— as far as general efficiency went, the 3rd Battalion Grenadiers were, as now, as good, if not better, than any Battalion in the Division. This was due almost entirely to two men, and especially to the first—B. N. Sergison Brooke, their Commanding Officer, and Oliver Lyttelton, their Adjutant. ‘Boy’ Brooke had had a wonderful career in the War. At the Staff College when it broke out, he was soon appointed Staff Captain to the 20th Brigade (7th Division), with whom he served up to January or February 1915, when he went as Brigade Major to the 1st (Guards) Brigade in the 1st Division. On the formation of the Guards Division he became Brigade Major to the 2nd Guards Brigade, and got the 3rd Bn. Grenadiers in February 1916 after 6 weeks as G.S.O. II. to the Vth Corps. He combined all the successful qualities of a good Staff Officer and regimental officer. But he was not the most remarkable figure in the Brigade—this place must be reserved for the Brigadier, John Ponsonby.

“John Ponsonby had come out in command of the 1/C.G., for which Battalion he always showed a marked preference, and, with the exception of a brief spell at home in October and November 1914, commanded them up to the formation of the Division in July 1915, when he was given the 2nd Guards Brigade. He was about 50 years of age, and his health had not been improved by long service in Uganda and elsewhere; and therefore such an arduous command as a Brigade must have been a tax upon him physically. But his amazing personality and charm made up for these disabilities. His powers as an entertainer were very great. The finest raconteur in the world, he could make the most ordinary incident into a perfectly screaming story, and more than any one founded that 2nd Guards Brigade spirit which is so characteristic of the Brigade. He was a very good judge of character, and there was never a ‘dud' anywhere near his Headquarters. When he became (in August 1917) a Divisional Commander, he was an enormous success, for with the higher formation his personality was able to influence even more people.

“His Brigade Major at the time of my going was Guy Rasch—a charming fellow and good ‘O’ officer. He went back to the 3/G.G. as 2nd in command almost immediately, and his place was taken by E. W. M. Grigg (G.G.) The latter’s career was as remarkable as any of the great ones of the War. Editor of the ‘Round Table' and a brilliant journalist of the best type, he joined the Grenadiers in January 1915.”

There the ‘Chronicle’ ends abruptly. It would have been a valuable narrative had he continued it, and, as he says elsewhere, a sketch “treating of events that have occurred in the past is apt to be more valuable or less dreary than a diary, which is too often a mere statement of fact without any conclusions or deductions.”

For a month after he joined the Battalion the Division remained in the Salient, and “a week in the Salient is equal to six in any other part of the line.” Letters between his mother and him passed with absolute regularity—as they did during the whole of his foreign service,—and during the first thirty days with his Battalion I find twenty-nine letters from him. As he said at the end of one, “Nothing more, but I always think an envelope daily is worth much more than what people call ‘a nice long letter’ once a week,” and, “This day-to-day correspondence is a thing that makes the War much more bearable.”

By the beginning of July he was installed in his own Company, and his affection for his Company Commander grew more and more intense during the short period of their comradeship.

“B.E.F., 1st July.

“On the Canal Bank. Heavily shelled. Now in my own proper Company, ‘B.’ Tim Orr-Ewing, C.C., Miller and self subalterns. Miller a remarkable fellow. Before the War he was in Karachi. On leave when war broke out. Enlisted in the ranks, and was out here for about a year as a private, corporal, and sergeant. He then broke a record by getting a commission in the regiment. It has never been done before in the Guards for a man to get a commission from the ranks. A very stout man, and very competent.

“The shelling isn’t much fun. You’re absolutely helpless, as to go into a dug-out is merely to exchange burial alive for disintegration: and burial alive, ‘It’s such a stuffy death,’ as Yum Yum said on a celebrated occasion.”

“1st Scots Guards, B.E.F., Sunday, 2nd July.

“Another day of rest in every sense. The guns—which were well on the job all last night —have ceased momentarily, and there is peace. Some din last night—a field-gun battery just behind us spitting out its 25 shells a minute, then the whine of the heavy howitzer shells going over from behind, and of course every now and then a heavy dunch as of J. Braid playing a push shot into the .wind at the 18th at Walton Heath, and the dug-out quivers. German retaliation: as a matter of fact there wasn’t very much. I suppose they’ve got some hell up their sleeves. We have raids almost nightly—50 men and a couple of officers. Artillery preparation for about an hour on a fairly wide front so as to keep the Germans in the dark as to where the actual entry is going to be made into the trenches, then they ring off for 5 minutes; the raiders rush across, and the Artillery lengthens the range a bit and forms a barrage behind the sector which is being raided. The raiders are generally over for about half an hour, and at a given signal are supposed to leap out of the trench and return with as much plunder, human and otherwise, as they can get. That is the programme, which of course is subject to alterations according to the preparedness of the German. If the latter has been properly ragged by the bombardment they generally get back intact. If not—that is, if he remains—is ready—well, you see all about successful raids in the papers, but the other night a raiding party from the - went over and not one of them came back.

“I do hope N. Orr-Ewing is coming to us. His brother seemed to know nothing. The latter is, I think, excellent: sees things exactly as they are, tremendously pro-Northcliffe, foams at the ludicrous optimism of people at home over nothing at all. How right—why be anything till there is a reason? Quite good news to-day from the South, but it’ll be a fortnight’s show, and there was too much of the 'we took the western edge . . . we are holding the northern boundary of this village,’ &c. sort of thing in the official thing yesterday. However, let’s hope it will be all right.

“But what a country—or rather what a Government! The Foreign Office exchanging 375 Germans for 22 English. They must be in German pay. Quite grim. However, I suppose something will happen soon, though I must confess that I am not in the least imbued with ‘that cheery optimism which characterises our lads in the trenches,’ nor have I seen much of it out here. No one is in the least gloomy, but most are quite unable to see any signs of the end. Still it’s got to come some time.”

The new experiences of such a life evoked of course a certain amount of moralising.

“Curiously enough—or perhaps naturally—as we have had a very easy time,” he writes on 12th July, “my feelings have not been those of fear. But, after all, a certain degree of personal courage is a sine qua non, or rather a power of concealing terror, and that every one possesses. The merit lies in how much fear there is to conceal. So far I have been fortunate in escaping its paralysing influence. But wait till you get a bad bombardment ('said I to myself, said I'). Then we shall see.

“Of course the longer one stays out here the worse one’s nerves become. For instance, shells and bullets affect me far less than shall we say M., though the latter has been out here eighteen months. Odd. I shall probably be a wreck in one.”

But when the Battalion were resting or behind the line he could appreciate to the full the semipeacefulness of the scene, and give his imagination full rein. Thus on 4th July he wrote :—

“But, mon Dieu, the sun is shining to-day from a perfect Eton sky—both from actual colour and association, and any water—even a Canal— reminds me of the river, and any trees—even shell-torn—of Upper Club, and Christopher Barclay popping in from the Coldstream is thoroughly imbued with the right spirit.”

Or—

“What an evening to-night. Lovely. I lay in a clover field behind the Canal bank and read Matthew Arnold. I like him immensely, a liking which was started by Hugh Macnaghten in B 1. How long ago it seems, and how pleasant it was.”

And a few days afterwards :—

“Matthew Arnold still occupies me. Read 'Balder Dead,’ very great. And of course Robbie Burns is never far away, accompanied by W. S. Gilbert.”

“Another perfect evening. I strolled out behind the Canal, where, aided by a walking-stick and a huge imagination, I played a match over North Berwick with old Alick. We halved. I did a 75 ; he a 76. All square and 1 to go. 3’s at the last hole. What a joy imagination is.”

“Beautiful weather for the last two days. Sunsets marvellous. Christopher Barclay is a great joy. We go for long walks, and talk of the golden days which shall never return.”

But besides these reflective interludes there was hard exercise at cricket and football with the men. He describes a cricket match played on matting in the dusty square of Poperinghe (not named at the time) in which he got out in a foolish way, and his comment is, “It is strange how irritating these little things are. But I think I should foam if some one gave me out l.b.w., even though we were doing an attack the next day.”

In the middle of July he writes of—

“A most strenuous Company football match against ‘C,’ which we won 4-2. I found myself playing left half in front of Sam Allan, ex-Hibs.: it stirred the heart to hear the familiar voices at the ring side, ‘Come awa’, Easter Road,’ ‘Poosh ’em, Wullie,’ &c. It is a pity that with such magnificently Scotch men the officers should mostly be English to a degree. The Scottish element among the officers is confined to I. Colquhoun, Hugh Ross, Tim Orr-Ewing, self, and Bobby Abercromby, et voila tout”

But now fresh tasks were awaiting the Division on the Somme, and a few days after a great entertainment at Brigade Headquarters, described in the following letter, the Battalion left the Yser Canal.

“1st Scots Guards, B.E.F., 22nd July.

"Two immense and excellent letters to-day, for which many thanks.

“Last night we had a great stunt at Brigade Headquarters. The band was playing, so the Brigadier sent round an invitation to anybody to roll up, which we did. They cleared out the room, and we danced till about midnight. We had a great foursome—'Sloper ’ Mackenzie, Eric’s brother in the Grenadiers, Luss Colquhoun, Wolrige Gordon, and self—Hugh Ross supplying the melody on the pipes—a crowd of admiring Sassenachs standing round. Great. Hech! What a lot of O.E.’s. Extraordinary. When they played the ‘Boating Song,’ C. Barclay and I nearly wept. There was something very great in the whole thing—the guns going like hell up in front; flares stabbing the night all around; and yet the officers of 4 Guards Battalions could forget everything-—even the possible imminence of a super-Somme show, and revel as at a children’s party. Could the Germans do it? I should like to see them. . . . Magnificent I thought the whole thing.

"To-day will be entirely uneventful; it drizzled this morning, which was an excellent excuse for not having the proposed route-march, much to everybody’s joy. It rather looks from the news as if the southern offensive had been bearing up—I wonder.

“Here you will find, for information, as they say in official circles, the Guards Division—its formation. You will find things easier to follow then : voila :—

“Before the Division was formed the 1st Coldstream and the 1st Scots were in the 1st Brigade with the 1st Black Watch and the 1st Camerons ; the 2nd Scots and the 1st Grenadiers in the 20th Brigade with the 2nd Gordons and the 1st Border Regiment. The others are new Battalions.”

II. THE SOMME.

[“Nothing has ever been done by Battalions of the Guards finer than the part they took in the battle of the Somme. It was not until the beginning of September that the Guards Division arrived in the Somme area, so it was not present at the first two phases of the battle. But in the attacks of September 15 and 25 the men covered themselves with glory : their discipline and coolness under fire were magnificent, and they captured lines which had up to then been considered impregnable. The final assault of Lesboeufs was one of the most successful operations of the war.”—Sir Frederick Ponsonby’s ‘History of the Grenadier Guards.’]

For the next month it is a constant tale of moving south. “On the Road. Five miles’ march from the village. Then train for four hours followed by a ten miles’ march ” is a typical description of the day’s work, and the tedium is relieved by episodes such as these: “Gilbert and Sullivan won me a franc this morning. A bet as to whether Captain Corcoran says, ‘I am in reasonable health’ or ‘in tolerable health.’ ‘Reasonable,’ of course.”

“This afternoon I have been talking Eton shop solidly with Christopher Barclay for about two and a half hours. And we are continuing after tea. What a heritage.”

Just a month after the Division left the Salient he writes as follows :—

“We are now in a village about one mile from where I started my active-service career with the old diggers, having taken six hours in train to do twenty-five miles. To give added piquancy to the situation, we were in a so-called tactical train, described in military handbooks as being used for rushing troops from one part of the country to another. We passed through Australians on our way to the station. Magnificent men. All asking if we were going to rest: so that gives us the cue of what the situation is down here. We have been expected ever since the biff started, and the atmosphere is rather like that in a Music Hall when the Star turn is just coming on. Some turn, I should imagine.”

On the 4th of September, when the 2nd Guards’ Brigade were training at Morlancourt, he was appointed Battalion Bombing Officer on the death of Guy Leach, and a few days after, the Brigade having moved to the Happy Valley and afterwards to Carnoy, he found himself in hospital at the Corps Rest Station at Corbie with some internal trouble which involved a diet of milk and brandy. The hospital was “a most imposing chateau place, which reminded me poignantly of the Savoy. In the middle of a very noisy, dusty, dirty town, with a main street running alongside of the building, along which great convoys of lorries go night and day.”

“I finished ‘Guy Mannering’ this morning, but I cannot help thinking that a child of five would have remembered scenes witnessed at that age quite distinctly, and that the sight of Ellan-gowan would hardly have failed to bring the whole thing back with a flash. And then how marvellously inadequate is Scott’s treatment of women. Lucy and Julia are simply lay figures, or at least very minor parts. . . . With the capture of Ginchy they seem to have got to the top of the ridge. What will be the next chapter?”

Henry left the hospital to join his Battalion on the 13th September, and thus just missed taking part in the memorable attack which the 2nd Brigade delivered on the 15th. It will be remembered that the Somme offensive had by this time been in operation for six weeks, and had resulted in the capture of many places south and west of the Pozieres Ridge. On this day tanks were used for the first time, and the attack resulted in the taking of High Wood, Flers, Martinpuich, and Courcelettes, though the whole scheme, which involved the capture of Lesbceufs and Morval, was not immediately successful, certain troops being held up by uncut wire.

“1st Bn. Scots Guards, B.E.F.,

14th September.

“Well, here I am at the Transport. I came back from Corbie yesterday in an A.S.C. car as there was nothing else to take me up, otherwise I couldn’t have got up till to-day. Arrived here to find the ‘left behind for the biff’ party. (En passant, any one who said that the Guards weren’t going to do anything will be chagrined to hear, that the 3rd Brigade have already had 24 officer casualties—i.e., 1st G.G. 8, 4th G.G. 4, Welsh 10, 2nd S.G. 2 (rather serious), and they were only holding a bit of Ginchy, and are in reserve to the 1st and 2nd Brigades, who take part in the biff of the Western front which begins on Z day.) The Welsh did magnificently, I believe. ‘Even the ranks of Tuscany,’ &c., but poor Alex. Wernher and Edward Cazalet were among the killed—both awfully sad. Well, the Battalion—mine—is up behind the fine waiting to go in. The party here consisted of Barne (2nd i/c), Elwes, Shortt, Abercromby, and Tim. They were counting me as sick, but Godman, on hearing I was back, said I was to remain here till called for, which you will be glad to hear. Tim has just gone up (midday), as Trafford, transport officer, brought back news this morning that Holland had been killed. Sickening being slain in preparatory—and on the whole desultory — shelling. Poor Ned. Almost forty, and a gallant man, if ever there was one. Jack Stirling has been left out by the 2nd Battalion, who are just going up, and he is coming to lunch with us. (You must understand that every Battalion before a show leaves out a certain number of officers.) Thanks so much for sending the food. It will be enormously welcome.

“Given only fine weather all should be well. The French are also biffing; everywhere in fact it is the 'Gambler’s throw’ for us—i.e., if this ‘biff’ comes off anything may happen. Of course I still think they will just stick 10 miles back in a new line. Cochrane, i/c 3rd Brigade, thinks all this fighting is merely a German rear-guard action, while they get every one back, including their heavies. They hardly use anything bigger than 5’9’s. Rather depressing if he’s right, and he might easily be too. . .

“1st Bn. Scots Guards, B.E.F., Midday, 15 September.

“The Division started at 6.20 this morning, and we—the embusques—have now moved up still nearer to the line, or rather to what was the line before they started. So far, from all accounts, everything has gone extremely well. The weather is excellent, thank Heaven!—and the 'Great Surprise’ is reported to have pulverised the Germans, who fled in panic. What it is you will no doubt see in the Press ere long. We are all—i.e., the transports of the whole Brigade— bivouacked on a hillside where we shall stay, who knows? It may be two hours or two days. With any luck one or two of the officers will go up to-night—it depends on the casualties. Heaven grant they are light. The servants all appeared here this morning from the Battalion. Leslie C., I am delighted to hear, has gone to the trench mortars—whether permanently or not of course I don’t know. But as he has never seen a trench mortar, I should think it would be rather droll. A report just in reports 300 prisoners already in and the Division nearly at their third objective —superb. Given continued fine weather anything may happen. Six Divisions of Cavalry are all up here, waiting for the moment.”

“1st Bn. Scots Guards, B.E.F., Sunday, 17th September.

“The great 'biff’ is over, and the Guards Division is no more, at least until we get up the new drafts. Counting every one, I don’t suppose we shall get more than about 280 men together. The 3 Coldstream Battalions can only muster 400 men between them. The officers’ losses have been appalling. Ours are as follows: Lionel Norman, Martindale, Holland, and I’m afraid old Tim killed, Leslie very badly wounded, David Barclay hit on the head, Miller in the chest, Daniell slightly, Hugh Ross slightly and awful shell-shock. The Coldstream in one Brigade— the 2nd—have lost 16 officers—8 killed—the 3rd Grenadiers 17—4 killed, including Raymond Asquith. The Battalion, with the rest of the 1st and 2nd Brigade, started the attack at 6.20 on Friday morning. Trafford, transport officer, brought back a message that they wanted me, so I went up with him on Friday night. After various vicissitudes I arrived at Brigade Headquarters at about 1 on Saturday morning. General Ponsonby refused to let me go up that night and try and find the Battalion, as no one knew where any one was, so I slept—intermittently— on the floor of Brigade H.Q., and after an excellent breakfast at about 6, started off with the Brigade orderlies as guide. The position was somewhat as follows :—

“The remnants of the 2nd Brigade were ensconced in T T, the old German 1st line. I didn’t know this, but we realised that they were somewhere in the trench X-T, so we tooled along the path, across the sunk road, till we got to the road from Ginchy: on this we found such a cross-fire—machine-guns and snipers in shell-holes from the right—that after crawling back, we decided it was no go that way. We got hold of a stretcher, however, and carried back a wounded man in the Batt., whom we discovered at 'W,’ and worked our way back gradually to Brigade. About 200 yds. from Brigade there was a dressing station, and I asked there if any one knew where the Batt. was. They said vaguely in the X-T line, so another attempt had obviously to be made. The Brigade orderlies said it was impossible to get up. However, this appeared to be rot, so I set off with a Doctor, who, as luck would have it, was looking for the Batt.—our old one having been hit.

“Well, he and I started off (our journey is defined by dots). We had just got to B, when a rather large Hun barrage started—some people were attacking, and this of course was to prevent us bringing up supports, &c. The Doctor and I and a Grenadier stretcher-bearer, who was with us, rushed to a shell-hole, where we sat for 1½ hours, while the thing went on. Luckily we had chosen a lucky hole, as though rather large shells came unpleasantly close, we didn’t get hit by anything. Added to this, the people on the right turned on machine-guns, which whizzed over our heads. Things subsided at last, however, and we went on, and at last got into the trench where the road joins it. Here I lost the Doctor, who stayed to dress some one, and I, hearing there were Scots Guards along to the left, went along there. Several hundred yards along I found a Sergeant and about 10 men of Right Flank—the only 1st Batt. men to be found in that bit of the trench. The 2nd Batt. were just beyond these people, with only 4 officers left. They had had about 14 casualties—only two killed though. After I and my small command had sat in this trench for about an hour, I saw an officer of the 1st Irish, who told me that the Batt. were along the trench to the right of the road, so we proceeded along; and at last, after a most congested passage, reached the chaps. Eric, Colonel Godman, Ellis, Boyd Rochfort, Luss Colquhoun, and Powell were the total complement. Holmes and Mungall were away on carrying fatigues, and I was made welcome in a German dug-out. We had an excellent picnic lunch, with the 2nd Irish, off German rations, cooked up, soda-water, and biscuits, &c.—all Boche, and how good. They do things magnificently sans doute. All the men have soda-water, ours have filthy chlorinated stuff brought up in petrol tins, and their meat ration (the equivalent of our bully-beef) delicious. Well, there we stayed all yesterday—heavily shelled all the afternoon from away on the right. One shell killed poor Mark Tennant and his orderly—the last of the Brigade machine-gunners—all killed except 2 wounded. As there were only about 300 men in all four regiments, the Colonel, who was in charge of the Brigade, decided to send back several officers—Ellis, Boyd Rochfort, and I were going. The two former went off about 6 —it was now getting dark or rather dusk, tolerably safe from the shooting from the right. I stayed behind, as I was going to guide down a ration party of 60 men. We teed off at 8, and went down to Brigade, when we found—better far than any rations—the news that we were going to be relieved, which we were in another hour. We marched up on Tuesday, a Battalion about 750 strong—we came down last night 142. Probably when every one comes in we shall have about 280. We are now in a camp, well behind, thank Heaven! and I don’t see how we can ever go back into the trenches for a very long time. Of course one never knows, but there will be a tremendous amount of reconstruction work. I am looking forward to a lot of training work. Leave, I think, will reopen almost at once.

“Guillemont, Ginchy—two names that won’t be forgotten in a hurry, except by our dear ones at home in England, where the Cuffley Zeppelin is more enthralling than a mere battle. You can’t imagine anything like the ground. The whole place is one mass of shell-holes—literally merging one into the other. Guillemont simply doesn’t exist, except as a scarred wound. Ginchy is only a little better, and my hat, the sights! It is better not to write about these things to people who realise what the war is, such as you; but there ought to be photographs taken of these battlefields and shown in every town of every country in the world, and then could the world go to war? I doubt it. Not even the Germans could look with complacency on the awful, grinning, greenish-black faces with their staring sightless eyes and yellow teeth of men dead a day or two, or the awful mottled wax-like pallor of the newly-fallen corpse. What a thing it is, this blasted war as it is made now. Simply machinery against which the finest men in the world are impotent. The Germans give themselves up wholesale, and make hardly any resistance except in places. Yet here is the Division, reduced to a handful after just this one attack. Simply gun-fodder. Writing is impossible for me. At least I don’t see how I can do it up here. I would if I could, but it is almost impossible up here. As a matter of fact, I have just sent one off per Harold Boyd Rochfort, who is going back with the cavalry. They can’t get any water up here, and so we are going back a bit to return as they say, but I doubt it.

“I send you an officer’s note-book, Boche: it might be interesting. Flowers found in it—some poor heart-broken Gretchen.”

“1st Bn. Scots Guards, B.E.F., Monday, 18th September.

“Just to intensify the general jolliness of the situation, the rain has been driving in sheets across this foul plain since early this morning. The casualties keep rolling up, and, to crown all, comes the news that we have got to go back to-morrow night and relieve the 20th Division in the line. Hell! One can’t realise the casualties just yet, but old Willie 1 has been killed, Oliver Leese very badly hit, also Lionel Neame. In the 2nd Coldstream, their Battalion, only Reggie Craufurd and one Laing came out unhit. In the 3rd Coldstream only 2 also. In our Brigade the 2nd Irish had 10 officer casualties. The 3rd Grenadiers 17, including 6 killed, of whom Eric’s brother was one, and the wretched 1st Coldstream had about 16 or 17—10 killed. Perfectly heartrending. The officer casualties have been out of all proportion to the men. The latter were bad, however. The whole thing was completely done in by the Staff. You will have read about the ‘Tanks.’ A good idea, but must be improved upon. The things are under horse-powered. This rain will probably stop any more ‘biffing,’ and I hope to Heaven it does. Almost all the Divisions down here are about 3000 strong, and the Germans have got lines behind stretching for miles. Our artillery are improving amateurs— c’est tout. Of course, having all one’s friends killed makes one rave rather—but this attacking is a failure, I’m certain. We lose far more than the Germans do. And then one sees that 180,000 are employed on the air defences of Great Britain. Stout fellows—1 Zeppelin in 2 years. Jolly good, and the filthy Press and the damned people go on as if it were the biggest thing of the whole War. Poor Raymond Asquith was a gallant man —could have been on any staff he’d wanted.”

“1st Bn. Scots Guards, B.E.F., Tuesday, 19th September.

“Still in this camp, but we probably go up into the reserve trenches at Waterlot Farm to-night. It has been pouring since yesterday morning early, but now, thank Heaven! it has stopped, and it looks as if we might have a dry march up. A big draft has just come in from the Entrenching Battalion, and we have now got about 700 men in the Battalion—once more ripe for the slaughter. Poor old Guy Baring, the Colonel of the 1st Coldstream, was buried yesterday. The rain poured down the whole time— a melancholy spectacle. But very impressive. Leslie Childers, I’m glad to say, is going on as well as can be expected, but poor David Barclay is very bad. Shot in the face somewhere, he is blind in both eyes, and his hand is very badly shattered—and only 19½, 5 days younger than I am. What a wicked thing this damned War is. I should like to have pointed out to me just precisely where all the honour and glory lies. It is curiously elusive. I am quite the hard-worked young officer just now, as I am doing Bombing Officer and ordinary company duty as well. Barne, the second in command, has taken on ‘B’ Company till we get more Company Commanders out. Jack Stirling is commanding the 2nd Battalion till the advent of Norman Orr-Ewing. He will feel Tim’s death frightfully, as we all do, but especially myself. He was always perfectly charming ever since I came out, and of course one’s Company Commander can make or mar one’s happiness more or less. I shall miss him frightfully.

“Well, will write from Waterlot to-morrow, but perhaps we may not go up till then.”

“1st Bn. Scots Guards, B.E.F., 20th September.

“Our departure from this camp, originally intended for yesterday, has been put off till this evening, when we go off to a place about a mile away, where the 2nd Battalion have been. They, with the rest of the 3rd Brigade and the 1st Brigade, go up to-night. We—the 2nd Brigade— are in support this time. The newspapers afford us food for much bitter merriment. Even the ‘Daily Mail’ announces ‘Light losses in the Great Advance.’ The Guards Division losses are 4500 men and about 150 officers—that is, out of, roughly, 8400 man and 216 officers: not too bad.

In the 2nd Brigade Machine-Gun Company—our Brigade—there were 9 officers—7 were killed and 2 wounded. Poor Mark Tennant, after coming through the actual biff, was killed by a shell on Saturday afternoon, just along the trench in which we were. I think a rather charming little officer in the Prussian Guard summed up the situation. On being asked what was going to happen, he simply said, ‘Well, you won’t win the War, nor shall we. We can’t kill all your men, and you can’t kill all ours.’ That is just about it. My watch arrived yesterday all right. The French are doing a biff this morning—at least there is the hell of a bombardment going on towards the south. . . . Well, don’t get alarmed if you don’t hear from me for a day or two. I’ll try and write to-morrow, or at any rate shoot off a Field Postcard.

“Beith couldn’t have written ‘The first 100,000’ about this phase of the War. Thank Aunty Babby for her delightful letter. She will doubtless see this.”

“1st Scots Guards, B.E.F.,

21st September (or 22nd. I’ve lost count).

“Here we are still in our curious cave-dwellings, but we move up to-night, and go in where needed, as the Brigade is in Divisional Reserve. The 1st and 3rd Brigades are biffing this time—we and the 1st did last time. A glorious day to-day, which is a joy. The weather has the most amazing psychological effect on every one. Guts, for instance. I always feel four times as valorous when the sun is shining. I am writing this in Tom’s tent. He is in charge of a 9th Lancers digging-party up here—all his Regiment and most of the rest of the Cavalry have gone back to water, and I don’t think they’ll come back again. Once more all idea of getting the Cavalry through has had to be abandoned, so now I hope they will realise the fact, and turn a good many of them into Infantry—especially all the 2nd Line Yeomanry ... at home. No incidents of any sort to narrate. I saw Nigel again yesterday, an excellent chap. I am extremely busy just now arranging about bombs and things for the chaps to take up. I have got to get 1440 up this afternoon. I don’t blame any one for not realising the War from the newspapers. Of course I suppose it is quite right that they shouldn’t dwell on the casualties, but it’s absurd that all the people at home, idle and otherwise, should be continually told that everything is going splendidly. To judge from the way they shove the same Divisions in again and again into the attack till they’re practically wiped out, they haven’t any too many men in reserve. Of course they want them for the Air Defences of England. 200,000 men so employed—and 1 Zeppelin—jolly good.”

“1st Bn. Scots Guards, B.E.F., Sunday, 24th September.

“Another beautiful day. Sky, &c., a thing that always makes life pleasant. Tom’s [T. S. Hankey, 9th Lancers ; Eton Eleven, 1914.] lot are doing a move at a moment’s notice, and depart this morning back to the Regiment. I suppose they have sensibly enough abandoned all thoughts of a Cavalry beat-through. This afternoon the Colonel and I are going up to have a look at the places whore we are going to-morrow. The Pipers have now joined us, and play daily. Yesterday Tom came down. He really is most congenial, of the type that weeps with joy at the pipes. They played ‘The Blue Bonnets’ quite magnificently, which I think is the greatest of all pipe tunes. Yes, Bob is a delightful person. I got a letter from him which made me laugh, even on the day after our biff, when ail the casualties were just being made known. I’m seriously thinking of becoming A.D.C. to Ewart. No one gets any kudos for being out here from the world at large. I must say the Munitions people are rather splendid the way they hoof the lads out of their Clubs. Imagine the system applied in Edinburgh. Leishman’s Insurance Committee forcing the members of the New Club to seek refuge in the Caledonian Hotel. Rather a humorous tableau. I must say I envy the people who are incapable of feeling. It saves them an awful lot. Truly detachment is no mean quality. There is no better way of solving the big problems of life than ignoring them. What fun word-juggling is. I do like people who know how to use our English language, or at least have an inkling that way. Have you read ‘The Brook Cherith’? Most offensive, I should think.

G. Moore I dislike frankly. Thanks awfully for the Bible—a most convenient size. The sack has also arrived. Till to-morrow—I will write before we go up, and then probably Field Postcards for a day or two, or perhaps not even that, as I shall be very busy.”

“26th September 1916.

“Still in jolly old Trenes Wood, which became rather less jolly this morning, when they sent over divers H.E. Souvenirs, killing the sick Sergeant—i.e., the Doctor’s Sergeant—in the process. The attack yesterday was a magnificent success, as far as we were concerned, also the French and the Division on the south, but, alas! the Division on our left or north got hung up; they are attacking again to-day, but I am afraid the Boche has had time to dig in again, and so the thing will recommence. It was ridiculous that they had not got the supports right up and ready to rush through. Did not Cavan say that there were ten fresh Divisions, a hundred thousand men, waiting to go out, but we never have the necessary supports up to make the thing decisive. We get out objectives and then dig in, and of course the Boche does the same, and so it goes on. Combles is now surrounded, or very nearly, as the French have got Fregicourt and we Morval. The Division on our left is held up in front of Gueudecourt; we shall probably move up to-night to take over the line from the other two Brigades, who deserve to come out after what they did yesterday; then we shall stay in a day or two; then probably the whole Corps will come out for a fortnight or three weeks; then I think we shall have to go back to the Salient. I know nothing of course, but I have a sort of feeling we shall. I enclose two ‘snaps,’ as X. might say, of self, Salient ones,—the undressed one is on the old Canal bank with Miller, now wounded, but going on very well, as is Leslie Childers, I am thankful to say. Our 2nd Batt. did magnificently yesterday; Jack Stirling, I hear, was superb, but I shall get all details to-night, as we shall probably relieve them. Most distressing this morning, Ivan and I were both embarking on a supplementary cup of tea after breakfast, when a d—d shell burst, it seemed, about a foot off (really about 40 yards); anyhow, it filled our cups with earth, leaves, and stuff, and completely ruined what would have been a great tissue restorer. Two of our Company have already gone up as carrying parties. Helen Neaves’ letter is charming, but I fear ultra-sanguine. A most uncomfortable night last night on hard boards in a dug-out, and in the middle, about one a.m., a message for the Adjutant arrived to say that a warning had come in about gas shells; topping. However, the alarm proved to be false. The Colonel is charming—a most gallant man; I hope he is not missing the trained hand of Eric in the Adjutantial department excessively. Ralph Gamble is coming into the 1st Coldstream in this Brigade, which is splendid.

“The Corps news-sheet came out last night with some rather interesting German comments on our Artillery, which they say is good; they are also rushing their Divisions about pretty rapidly, but I think if they choose to hold the Cambrai line they can stop on on this front for a very long time. You can’t imagine what the country is like—all the woods consist of stark bare poles rising up from a tangled mass of barbed wire, undergrowth, and great shell-holes everywhere. The open looks exactly as if a gigantic plough had been run across it irregularly. Everywhere are dumps of material and ammunition, most of them derelict. The wastage must be appalling, but, after all, they don’t often get a chance of spending five million pounds a day, these magnates in Whitehall! Asquith has been hard hit in this : Raymond A., Mark Tennant, and Bim Tennant, the Glenconner son, all killed. All the heads frightfully bucked yesterday, congratulatory messages crowding each other down the telephone wires, and well the first and third Brigades deserve all the praise they got. There is no doubt the Division are superb, and are followed very closely by the 9th, the 15th, and 20th. The 9th and 15th, both Scotch, and the 20th, chiefly K.R.R. My only hope is that the casualties haven’t been too appalling, such a lot of one’s friends were going through hell yesterday; so far, the only sensible thing about the War I have seen is an extract from a German paper in the ‘Times’: ‘It is ludicrous for people at home to talk about the glorious day of battle; such expressions as this are simply the result of lacking imagination, coupled with complete security and comfort. Our soldiers are going through hell on the Somme, nothing more and nothing less.’ How true; the farther from the front the more delightful does the War appear, till it reaches the apogee of general jollity in London drawingrooms. I may be able to write in the fine, as apparently they can get things up all right.”

“Thursday, 28th September.

“In the front line to-day since Monday night, but to-night we go back into support, and on the night of the 30th we come out. The whole Division then goes back into rest behind Amiens, so I’m told. The attack of the third Brigade on Monday was a marvellous performance. We relieved the 2nd Battalion, who came out only about 250 strong. They only had 8 officers in the battle, of whom 3 were killed. Menzies, I’m glad to say, survived, also Victor C. Baillie. Jack Stirling, who did magnificently, told us some wonderful stories of 2nd Batt. men hit twice, even three times, and insisting on going on. Marvellous chaps. Norman O. E. is now out here, with ‘Dumps’ Coke (Corsham) as Adjutant. J. Stirling is, I think, remaining as 2nd i/c, and a Major. In the attack on Monday, in the three Grenadier Battalions, out of 12 Coy. Commanders, 10 were hit. The 4th Batt. had all four killed. Our job has simply been holding the line, which hasn’t been too easy, as the whole thing is so frightfully disconnected. I have been working incredibly hard—at the telephone all day and all night. During the last four nights I have had about 8 hours’ sleep all together. But it is great fun! I just love running a Battalion, though I wonder what the Colonel thinks. He is a delightful man, sound and shrewd and pawky, and a real topper. We in the 2nd Brigade were very lucky not to have had a second dose like the other two. On the 15th the 3rd Brigade were in reserve, but they had as much to do as the two front Brigades. We have had nothing to do—though on Monday we were waiting in Trones Wood, expecting to go up at any moment. The Boche, I think, is in no mood for retaliatory aggression, but he is digging in quite peaceably about 2000 yds. away on the west in front of Le Transloy despite our Artillery attentions. I can’t help thinking that we ought to have been shoved in yesterday, when the Division on our left made another local attack, and so get the whole ridge. I can’t see what good these comparatively small (3 and 4 Divisions) attacks do. We take a bit of ground, stop for three days, and the Boche digs in quite comfortably, and so it goes on. As a matter of fact, the 14th Corps, and in it, principally us and the 20th Division, have taken more in two biffs each than all the other people did in two and a half months. But it is sad to think that all the ground we win back is hardly worth the winning. We are up by the side of Les Beeufs, which is being shelled to hell by the Boche, while Flers and Gueudecourt present the most lamentable spectacle. Three years ago smiling villages, nestling among the trees here and there across a green plain—now a shell-scarred desert with here and there a heap of stones and rubbish, and a stark trunk or two. The Great War. The ration party will take this up to-night, so all will be well. There is absolutely nothing to report, they say, except that I am pitifully dirty and abnormally sleepy. But what matter—rest in a day or two and equally—Leave.”

“29th September.

“Here we are in the support line—to-morrow we go back to tents or billets, and something for the night, and then on 2nd October we join a train to the No. 4 Training Area, S.W. of Amiens. Well out of this foul zone, and then I really believe leave will be open. I am about 5th for it, so the middle of October ought to see me packing my grip and tooling across the Channel: it is really too good to believe, so I am anticipating a sudden call back from our training area and being hurled afresh into the fight—but, with luck not. Honestly, I believe, the Boche are getting rather ‘blithered.’ The Colonel told me that Churston, who is a city ‘knut,’ told him that the Hamburg-Amerika Line were insuring their ships from derelict mines up to any amount as from 1st January ’17; and do you see that all wives, &c., of German officials have got to be out of Belgium by that date? Significant, very. Also we have got some interesting news off prisoners re artillery disinclination to fire. Shortage? I wonder. It makes us all rather sick to hear all this rot about the Tanks, which weren’t nearly as effective as gas was at its first attempt, which is the one thing we can judge their success by. They did good work certainly in the cases in which there were good men inside them, but to say they were a decisive element is bosh. Every one is very glad to be out. This line we are in is the original German first line, which we took on the 15th. The Colonel, the Doctor, and self are in an excellent German dug-out, and Witt met me with my rubber-bed, which I got from poor old Ned Holland. Ye Gods! how I slept—hog-like. It is now 5, and the rations have just come up, so I must rush off and post this.”

“B.E.F., 30th September.

“We leave our line this evening and go to bivouacs somewhere for the night, and then tomorrow we go off somewhere in a train. There is no word of leave, and I should think we must be prepared for one more go in the line at least. I can’t think that they will send us over again— it will be the greatest mistake, as we have now just got the nucleus for building up the Division again. But these people behind simply send in every Division till it ceases to exist—cf. the 20th in this corps—a magnificent Division, who among other things took Guillemont. On the 14th they were 3200 strong—the normal strength of a Division is about 10,000—yet since then they have been in almost constant action. Poor dears. I am in rather a gloomy frame of mind this morning, for in the morning I took out some men to bury old Joe Lane, the Adjutant of Willie’s Batt.—the 2nd Coldstream. We also buried about 8 men of the Regiment, all killed on the 15th. Not very jolly. I have got an extremely good letter from ‘Blacker’ which you might like to see, so I enclose it. A great man. Hugh Macnaghten every fortnight sends a sort of letter all about Eton to all his pupils out here. Foss Prior was an Eton Master and a topper. He was in the 60th.

“We have discovered where old Tim was buried, so we’ve got a cross made out, and are going out to put it up. Poor old Tim, and Willie and Bunny Pease, Lionel Norman, and a hundred others. If they’d had another corps ready to hurl in on the 26th, all would have been well. But of course they hadn’t got them up, and so it will be all done over again—800 yards in advance.

“How great and glorious is war.

“I shan’t .be sorry to get a bath, as I am incredibly dirty, and clothes on since last Saturday.

“Till to-morrow, when I hope to be writing from a pleasanter clime.”

“1st Bn. Scots Guards, B.E.F., Thursday, 5th October.

“The best has happened, and I arrive in London some time on Tuesday, the 10th, at Waterloo. Leave a message at the Guards Club where you are to be found. I get 8 days certainly—possibly 10—but anyhow all arrangements can be made when we meet.

“Eric has gone as acting Brigade Major while the latter is on leave, so I am again doing Adjutant —add all the bombing, and I find myself pretty hard worked. To-morrow there is going to be a great show—Geoffrey Feilding is coming over to give ribbons to people—i.e., the men. Among the officers Iain Colquhoun got a D.S.O., and old Ronny Powell a Mihtary Cross. Here is a list of the Divisional officers’ casualties, Sept. 10-30 :—

Pretty shattering. I am going to ride over and see the 1st Coldstream this afternoon. . . .

“Coming home entirely defies verbal analysis.

“P. S.—Can Rosalind be got hold of?”

The Division, or what was left of it, had earned their rest, and on the 1st of October they were on the point of moving right back 16 miles S.W. of Amiens. To Henry it was a joy to find “a village quite intact; a field absolutely unscarred by war; a wood which is still a wood, and not a sort of glorified Lancers’ bivouac. I am still Adjutant, as Eric has gone on billeting. We join him to-morrow morning, when I surrender the Seals of Office. I can honestly say the last week has been the best I have had out here, if it wasn’t for the awful death and devastation. I love work, and my hat! one gets it as Adjutant.”

Leave was now opening again, and, as he had just told us, his turn was to come in a few days. On 7th October he dined with the 1st Coldstream, of whom he writes that “the battle has changed that Battalion more, I think, than any other, but there are still some great friends of mine there, notably Ralph and Jeffery Holmesdale, Bridge, &c. Charles Hambro is unfortunately going to the 3rd Battalion.”

And a few days later he was in London.

In the Somme—continued.

Leave was spent principally in London. He was due to return to France at the end of October, but there were several false starts, occasioned apparently by submarine activity in the Channel, and it was only on 4th November that he wrote:—

“Crossed at last, and by a great stroke secured the Captain’s cabin, and slept peacefully in a bed all night. Most of the people had religiously stayed down there (Southampton) since Saturday, sleeping on the boat and reporting to Authorities at intervals of two hours. Poor dears.”

He had spent the intervening days with his mother in London, and was strong in the moral support of Major Eric Greer and Captain Charles Moore of the Irish Guards, who were on this occasion his companions in good fortune. They journeyed out together, and this was the beginning of a great friendship between him and Major Greer, which was doomed, however, to last less than nine months.

On arrival at his Battalion he found them in the line, and sunk deep in the Somme mud. This at the time was so shocking that it took the wounded two days to get down from Lesboeufs to Bernafay Wood—a distance of about four miles.

The future plans of the Division were sketched, so far as he felt himself permitted to allude to them, in a letter of this time, and shortly afterwards they were reported to be in camp on the Carnoy-Montauban road, the front line up to which they went from those quarters being near that place of terror, Trenes Wood. At other times between now and the end of the year, we hear of his being near Le Transloy or in a dug-out by the side of a hill beside the road to Combles, and, except when temporarily luxuriating in the comparative comfort of a French camp upon a well-chosen site, “from which we move on to a place chosen by our own Staff where there is no shelter of any sort,” he ever reverts to the mud and the hardship for the men;    “though, remember,” he says,

“when I refer to the filthiness of the conditions, it only refers to this Somme sector from Hebuterne to Sailly Saillisel. Everywhere else both sides are in the same trenches that they were in last winter, and consequently all right.”

“1st Bn. Scots Guards, B.E.F., 15th December.

“Once more we have emerged from the line. Last night the Battalion dragged itself through the mud to the French camp, which it reached between the hours of 11.30 and 4.30 this morning— was roused up this morning to come on here to another camp, where we stay for two days. Then back to the French camp again for two days— 17th, 19th—then the line for two days—19th, 21st, and so on—two more goes in the line after that of two days each. The conditions are getting very bad, and the men suffering frightfully. We—Luss, Ronny Powell, and self—were all right in our dug-out, and slept for 20 hours out of the 24, as the trenches were too bad to go round by day—but the men, poor devils! Only enough ground to stand on, and that they had had to dig out of fearful mud. No materials— because of the difficulty of bringing them up, which is being overcome by the tortoise degrees so dear to our Staff, God bless them! No covering except a waterproof sheet across the trench. Fortunately, the line is—or has been—very quiet as far as war goes, but the weather makes it appalling. But going in is worse, and coming out worst of all. First, a mile over the top— trench impassable—to get to trenches, Battalion Headquarters : on a tortuous track between the shell-holes, mud in varying depths everywhere. Then another two miles to the road—most of which has been duck-boarded, otherwise it would be impassable, and then 3½ miles’ walk on the road. The men got bogged so badly that they had to be hauled out all over the place. Luss and I pulled out about half a dozen ourselves. We found one man in the 2nd Battalion—his identity disc showed—buried up to the neck in a shell-hole, and quite dead—and there are many such.

“Even when we do get out we are never allowed to stay more than two nights in one place—witness this tour—:so the poor brutes haven’t a chance of getting properly dry. And my hat! they are fed up. No wonder. They, the Infantry in the line, who bear the brunt of the whole thing, get nothing done for them, get paid a pittance compared to any one else, and then get butchered in droves when the fine weather comes. No one would object to being 'condamnes a la mort,’ as the French pithily describe the Infantry, if there was a little fattening-up attached to it.

“My views about peace are simply these. If we don’t consider the German terms, and, if they are reasonable, accept them, we shall probably be in a far worse position this time next year. Due in a great measure to the late Government’s two years. Granted, but unfortunately this departure doesn’t undo the harm done. What have we to set against the German victories—except their Colonies, and the stifling of their trade—upon which they didn’t depend, as we do utterly.

“The Germans give themselves up—those that do—because they are sick of the discomfort, which isn’t half what our people go through (who ever saw a British dug-out?), and bored with the thing, as private soldiers, and because they know we treat them like princes.”

It was found during this winter on the Somme, and in this sector especially, that the climatic conditions did not permit of troops remaining in the front line for four or five days on end before being relieved, and he writes of “going into the line” (this time with Left Flank; he had previously been with “C” Company under “Luss" Colquhoun) “for two days; the men can’t stand any longer.” “Esmond Elliot,” again he writes, “I saw this morning just going into the line for the first time with the 2nd Battalion. He was looking very well. That is the worst of this d—d War. I feel so well on it. The Household Battalion were quite close to us, and I went across yesterday to see them. Wyndham Portal fearfully exercised, as they had 180 cases of sickness after one go in the line. Teenie I saw, which was delightful.”

The discomforts of this winter campaign were really aggravated for its victims by the extraordinarily unintelligent attitude (to use a charitable epithet) adopted by certain sections of the British Press. It is said that newspapers, pictorial and otherwise, adapt themselves to the tastes of their readers, and in this connection one must therefore assume either that the stay-at-home British public favoured the suave mari magno philosophy, or deliberately tried to deceive themselves as to the dangers and hardships which many of the younger men of the country were at that time voluntarily evading. There is, of course, another explanation (short of crass and unimaginative stupidity, which is, after all, the most probable one)—viz., that our rulers, in their anxiety to recruit with as little opposition as possible those who were making good money and living at their ease at home, desired the Press to paint as rosy a picture as possible of the pleasures of the War! Whatever may have been the explanation, however, it will be in the minds of many that their feelings were being constantly jarred at this time —and throughout the War—by pictures, episodes, and comments which could not.have been otherwise than irritating to the men concerned.

The following outburst, contained in a letter towards the end of November, gives the cue to this :—

“But the Press—particularly the halfpenny Pictorial—is unhinging. Did you see the ‘Daily Sketch’? A large picture of a Battalion plodding through the mud up to the trenches heralded in large type thus, ‘Merry Mud Larks on the Somme.’ My God!”

But Henry could not remain irritated or despondent for long together. His friends, his books, his work, his keenness for his men, all kept his mind constantly occupied, and when out of the line he never seemed to be in the same place two days consecutively.

“B.E.F., 26th November.

“I managed to stagger up to the 2nd Irish to lunch with Eric Greer, who was in excellent form. He and I are doing a sort of book. He is doing the drawing, I the verse, about the War. Pleasant rot. He wants to send it to a paper, in fact that is his object. Certainly they are a good deal less bad than the sort of stuff that is taken. . . . Had tea with Eric G. and his Irish H.Q. They are charming. Reid the Colonel, Fitzgerald the Adjutant, and the charming Father Knapp. I am very fond of them all.

“The work goes on apace—i.e., the oeuvre of Eric and self. The following epigram occurred to me last night:—

‘O staff, whom we daily anathematise,
If yon only could hear us you’d soon realise
That though Pressmen may hail your Gargantuan brain,
You’re the people who cart us again and again.’

“Tea with 1st Grenadiers. Talk of Ypres. Discipline of German prisoners, &c. . . .

“Amiens with Ralph Gamble, Paddy Kinross, &c. . . .

“Lunch with 'Bulgy’ Thorne, 3rd Grenadiers.” And so on.

Just before Christmas we received from him the following breezy effusion :—

“B.E.F., 23rd December.

“Dinna fash yersel’. I am staying out of the line when they are going up on the 26th—and Jasper Plowden. I am going to Amiens to-morrow. Shall do Christmas there. Not pleasant. We relieve the 2nd Battalion in the line on the 1st. Cheery-ho! The Tron!! Heck!! And then come out for good—i.e., a month or so on the 3rd, and about time, as our numbers are frightfully down owing to sickness. We only go into the line about 300 strong, and there are many Battalions worse than that.” And then, with a burst of affection as precious as it was rare in these virile letters of his, “Au revoir, darlings. I love you.”

Shortly afterwards we learned from him how he and his friend Jasper Plowden had bettered their instruction—an escapade which not only brought a nest of official hornets about their own ears, but involved their long-suffering but greatly forgiving comrades of the Division as well. It was a tribute to the spirit of comradeship that prevailed in the Battalion that he was able to write about these affairs a month later. “I think the leave is going to be put on again shortly. No one was in the least sick about it in the Battalion. All charming.”

How the two days’ leave to Amiens developed into something more attractive is told in the following letters to us and to his cousin Rosalind Grant:—

“HCtel Ritz, Place Vendume, Paris,

25th December, 12. a.m.

“Me voila once more in civilisation—and in the Gay City at that—for a brief space. Having been left out of the line and free of all duty till we have to rejoin the Battalion on the evening of the 28th, Jasper Plowden and I decided to go to Amiens, which stands very much to Paris, me judice, as, shall we say, Leicester to London. So on arrival at Amiens, we decided to come on here, which we did by the afternoon train, and arrived envers 5.45. Mon Dieu—never did I imagine that mere bodily comfort could mean so much. After all, going on ordinary leave, one generally manages to clean up at Havre or Boulogne, so it isn’t the same as this when we practically walked out of the line—and a bloody line at that—into the most amazing comfort. First, a wonderful room with bathroom attached —then in the said bathroom a bath, which mere words are quite inadequate to describe. Boiling water, huge towels, a tiled floor, a-a-achh!! Then —dinner—melon, consomme, plat de sole, poulet, peche Melba, and chablis cup—I nearly burst. Then we staggered off to a Music Hall, and sat in a comatose condition throughout the performance—as bad as any in London, but extremely vulgar and hence almost tolerable—whence we have just returned. The only fly in the ointment is that when we report to M. Brett, the A.P.M., to-morrow, he will probably make us go back to Amiens, as I expect there is some absurd rule about not being allowed here unless one is on formal leave—as if Paris couldn’t hold every one with the enterprise and opportunity to get there. However, nous verrons—and, after all, nothing can rob me of my bath and dinner, which I shall always look back on as one of the great events of my life. Jasper is a charming companion.

“Paris itself I have not yet seen, as it was quite dark when we arrived—that is a joy reserved for the next day or two, should Brett prove tractable. It rained almost without ceasing during our sojourn at our camp, so what the trenches will be like I shudder to think, when the chaps again go into them. I am beginning to lose all interest in things military—even that grain which I once possessed. The whole thing is such an utter impasse. Here am I—17 months in the Regiment—7 months in this country—four months’ instructorship at home—and still a d—d second-lieutenant with no prospect of ever being anything else. The Swiss attitude is humorous —that of Woodrow merely silly, still not half as fatuous as all the Europeans, who refuse to see when a joke has ceased to be humorous. War, always overrated because invariably written about by non-combatants, is entirely played out as a method of settling disputes. Nothing is worth the misery this War has caused—there I so heartily agree with Ralph Gamble—not even that myth—which Radicals deny the existence of—the Empire, or anybody else’s for that matter, and yet of course it is impossible to say that seriously. Well, I wonder ... a subject for discussion. ‘ The merrie chimes of Yule ring out their message of peace and goodwill.’ I expect a few parsons to-day will cause laughter in heaven.”

“Hotel Ritz, Place Vekdome, Paris,

27th December.

“To-night our New Arabian night is over, and we return to-morrow morning at 10. to Amiens and the beyond. It has been quite delightful. It will be interesting to see what the authorities do say, as we have apparently broken—unwittingly —all the Laws of the Medes and Persians. Nothing annoys the Staff more than to discover-that some one in the Infantry has managed to filch a day or two of life untarnished by mud and trenches from their tenacious grasp.

“On Xmas Day occurred the most amazing thing of all. Crossing the Rue de la Paix, who should we meet but Tom Hankey, also on leave —amazing coincidence. We were both for the moment speechless, and then of course rushed into each other’s arms. Since then we have combined. In the afternoon of the 25th we went to a French version of ‘Please help Emily’— amusing, having seen it in London. In the evening, after dining like kings at Henry’s, we went to the Casino de Paris to a revue—the French Gertie Millar, a woman Mistinguett—what a woman, an artist to the finger tips, incredibly attractive—did the Early Victorian scene out of *More.’ The man indifferent, and the whole scene big and garish after the Ambassadors, but Mistinguett superb—and the amazing thing is that she is at least 35, if not more. To-day we went again and gained an entree by (a) going upon the stage and having our fortunes told, one of the items of the revue, by her, and (b) by sending round a note composed by Tom, Jasper, and self, signed ‘Sunningdale’—an invented peer! The result was that Jasper and I went round and saw her this evening. We chatted, and are going to see her again to-morrow. A tremendous coup— if, and when, as she says she intends to—she comes to London. An amazing personality— with ‘une allure.’ Mon Dieu! I am an extraordinary person—I love that type of stunt—it has all the zest of some big conquest—doing the Eilburn hole in 3, or converting a try from the corner flag.

“English officers ought to be sent here on Educational tours. I stood in the Place de la Concorde this morning, feeling exactly like the Queen of Sheba. Their meanest street here is as fine as Piccadilly. Of course, I have only had a coup d'onil—just enough to realise that after the War we must come here and see it properly. The Louvre—shattering. Unfortunately, the pictures are shut up, but we went over what sculpture there was open. The Arc de Triomphe, as against the Marble Arch. Ugh! The Americans are interesting. Did you read an extraordinarily interesting letter in the c Times ’ of the 26th by an American journalist? What clods we are— also see the c World ’ this week. Apparently the Liberal idea is to appear friendly to the new Government—though all the time loathing it— and then when Ld. George and Co. have got unpopular with the country by bringing in strong —and uncomfortable—measures of economy, &c., for winning the War, to boot them out, make peace, and take all credit for it. They evidently think that all the British are as low as themselves. Perhaps, and they aren’t far wrong. I wonder how many seats Asquith would get to-morrow ? Not so few as one thinks.

“The British are not very much in evidence here, which is a great blessing—but all the same, I sometimes wish that the Place Vendome, upon which our window looks out, with its column in the middle, could suddenly turn into 'St Andrew Square’! I haven’t mentioned the War in this epistle. This place and its joys will make me forget it for some time. Cheery-ho!

“A guid New Year tae ye, and a fine Hogmanay nicht, and mony a Deoch-an-Doris tae toast the laddies in what’s awa’ on the Somme— and the auld Jocks, and auld Scotland itsel’ for ever!”

“1st Bit. Scots Guards, B.E.F., Thursday, 28th December.

“Just returned from the Gay City, to find that the Battalion is not coming straight to this camp to-night, as they have been shellng the railway by which the latter half of the journey is generally made. We found Cecil Trafford in Amiens with a Flying Corps tender buying food, so we came along with him. I found a wonderful collection of letters waiting for me. Delightful. Thank you so much for the money and the food when it arrives. ... It must be quite incredibly damnable sitting at home with these non-carers still playing a large part and hearing scandals—cf. the staff man’s D.S.O. for making tea—as fresh news which are quite ordinary occurrences out here. But c keep a stout heart, good fellow,’ as Fairfax says to Sergeant Meryll. ... A very good example of the extraordinary wrong-headedness of even good and honest men—and intelligent—has just come to my notice. A nice little man called has just joined—though nice, his war-service consists of 16 months as an A.D.C. Never mind, he has reformed. But X., his old tutor, writes to him, commending him for his great self-sacrifice, and saying that it is doubly great of him to join, as he was doubtless so valuable on the Staff. An A.D.C.!!! Of course the whole A.D.C. system is one long period of snobbery and intrigue and petticoats. Christmas is certainly a pretty good farce. Yet I suppose there are those who observe it with all time-honoured celebration this year.

“P. S.—And a guid New Year tae ye—the one non-futile greeting.”

“1st Bn. Scots Guards, B.E.F., 31st December 1916.

“I got a delightful letter here to-day on our way into the line for our last go. We are in the support area for a couple of nights, which means that the Battalion is very much split up. All the Companies are in different places, and we— Headquarters—are here. I am doing Adjutant, as Eric has been left out, and of course am enjoying myself. It always thrills me. We are in some dug-out shelters on the side of the road. We mess in a little room upstairs, and sleep in a dug-out about 30 feet down, German, and therefore wonderful, of course: four bedrooms with four beds—all boarded up with doors between each room. There sleep the Colonel, Miles Barne, the Doctor, and self—and we are not uncomfortable.

“The weather is incredibly vile—so wet and warm. If only it would really freeze hard.

“An interesting and encouraging thing occurred, I’m told: a Sergeant-Major in the East Kent Regiment, who was captured 6 weeks ago, escaped and came into our lines last night. He says the Boches are fed to the teeth, and have nothing to eat, except bread, soup, and potatoes. No meat, apparently, and they are all sick to death of the War. What fools human beings are to live under a system by which they can be put in such a position as prevails at present. Ninety per cent of every nation want peace, yet the War has to go on. How ludicrous it is.

“I have just finished a sketch of Lord Melville, by one Lovat-Fraser (c Daily Mail ’?) sent me by Mary—a magnificent man, verily. I will send it back to you—as I have done with about 15 other books, which will doubtless arrive in due course.

“Hogmanay nicht! Losh me! but it’s time we wis stairtin’ for the Tron. Hae ye got the bo’le, Wullie? . . .    .

“I have just finished ‘The Light that Failed,’ and don’t quite know what to say about it yet. Marvellously good, but uneven. To me, Torpen -who is the most attractive character in the book. What a wonderful thing friendship is, and how easily misconstrued by the canaille—which includes almost every one, intellectually speaking —into gross homosexualism. It is considered decadent to say, ‘I love so-and-so.’ Yet ‘Love’ is the only word which describes one’s feelings to really great friends, and it is only the people who realise that who succeed in the sphere of friendship.

“S. H. G. and Miles B. play chess all day without any cessation, except to eat. There is a lot of work to do, so I am kept pleasantly busy. ‘Britling’ I read two months ago, and at once recommended to you. Do you read my letters? (A question typical of you.) It is very great and marvellously descriptive of the failure of B. & Co. to take advantage of the greatest opportunity that has ever come to the Governors of this country.

“I don’t suppose I shall have time for much writing for a day or two, but will do what I can.”


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