More on the War Diaries

I have decide that, in parallel with the blog, I'll keep the War Diaries of the 9th Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment up to date.

There is, virtually, an entry every day so that the reader can get an overview of what was happening to the whole Battalion. This should complement Harry's letters extremely well. (They are going to restart very shortly).

Today, I have put on the entry for 27th August 1917 when they remained at "Chateau Segard". Up to know I haven't found any modern record of the Chateau. Can anyone help? It is mentioned in several WW1 documents and appears to be a training centre of sorts. Maybe it was destroyed in that war.

(Update - I have discovered that Chateau Segard is no more. The location is now a farm. All that remains of the Chateau is two pillars beside the road.)

The link to the war diaries is at the top left of this blog.

War Diaries August 1917

I am almost apologising for not having letters to post. (Almost but not quite!)

The reality is, of course, that I can't publish letters that I don't possess or don't exist.

I have transcribed the War Diary of Harry's Battalion. It can be seen that, for the month of August 1917, the 9th Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment saw little action. They spent their time in various camps in the Ypres (Ieper) area. Click here to see the War Diary transcription.

Wonderful comments from readers. 20th August

I've collected together the generous comments that readers have made about the blog and the letters. Click here to read them.

Readers Comments - Updated Version

All about Connie

Connie was the illegitimate daughter of Kate, Harry's sister. She was born in June 1910 in the Nottingham area.

She was brought up by Kate's brother Harry and his wife Ethel. That Harry is the subject of the blog.

I believe the picture on the left is Connie. It was the front of a postcard sent to Kate in December 1913 by her sister Agnes. The cryptic note on the back is interesting.

A second picture, a little older, has Willie's distinctive handwriting on the back.

Willie has said that Connie was "a cripple". I have no further information on this.

Connie died on 21st December 1929 and was buried on Christmas Eve. She died from complications resulting from her cerebral palsy.

Her grave, which she shares with her

9th August 1917, Card to Connie

This flash of colour was tucked in the grey, drab bundle of letters. It's difficult to tell when it was sent as there's no date or postmark. It must have been included with one of the letters and the content suggests that it must have been sent about this time. I admit to taking a liberty by implying the precise date.The little card was inserted in behind the flap in the muslin front.

Connie would be about 8 when it was written. Willie would have been approaching 18 months. Connie was being brought up as Willie's big sister.

I am now convinced that Connie was Kate's illgitimate daughter. Further evidence came to light which I'll post in the next few days.

The "silk cards" were very popular during the war. Many were sent home from the front. Most were hand embroidered by refugees and displaced persons.

"A souvenir from France" is slightly misleading. As far as I can tell, Harry was in Belgium. He never spent any time in France. "Souvenir!" Would he really want to remember this expedition?

Battalion War Diary of the Battle of Messines Ridge


June 7th At 3.10 am (zero hour) our artillery opened up a terrific barrage on the Hun front line & simultaneously the mines under Hill 60 and the CATERPILLAR were blown. At zero +1 (minute) the first wave consisting of B Coy on the left & A Coy on the right went over, and were followed by D Coy (moppers up) & C Coy (Harry's Company) in support at short intervals. The attack progressed very favourably and by zero + 30 the Bn had reached its objective and began consolidating. Very few casualties were sustained in the actual attack.

At zero + 3hr 40mins the 8th Bn York & Lancaster Bn & the 8th Bn KOYLI on the right and left respectively, went over from our objective and reached the final objective of the Brigade.

June 9th The Bn remained in its objectives until the evening of the 9th. During this period the Bn underwent heavy shelling & sustained many casualties. B Coy also relieved the 8th Bn Y & L in the front line on the morning of the 9th. On the evening of the 9th the Bn was relieved by the 1st N Staffs Bn. The total casualties sustained were officers - killed 4 (including the C.O.) wounded 6. O.Rs - Killed 39, wounded 211. Died of wounds 9. Missing 18.

Night of 9th/10th On relief the Bn moved by motor lorry from KRUISTRAAT to SCOTTISH LINES. Capt. D Lewis took over temp command of Bn at midday on June 7th* from Lt Col Bowses Wilson, killed in action 7.6.17. Coys at O.C Coys disposal for cleaning up and re-organisation
* Added in very small writing as a superscript.

This account should be read alongside Harry's two letters of 11th June. He does mention the loss of the C.O but, amazingly, neither letter mentions the explosion of the mines. If the explosion could have been heard in London & Dublin, it must have been quite significant a few hundred yards away!

War Diaries of Harry's Battalion August 6th

I've just discovered and downloaded the "War Diaries" of the 9th Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment, Harry's Unit. These astonishing documents are available online from the Public Records Office, Kew website.

They give a day-by-day account of the activities of the battalion. I now have to decide how to deal with the information. It is fascinating to put the "official" account against Harry's letters. In the future, I'll publish the entry in the battalion's war Diary alongside the letters but I'm left with the problem of dealing with the retrospective material.

PLAN I'll publish several days worth each day, starting with the beginning of June. I'll insert a second copy in the correct chronological place in the blog. Then, as time goes on, I'll withdraw the bits that are in the wrong time slot.

PLEASE. Use the comments to help me decide if I'm doing the right thing. I have collated comments into one post that should be available in the next week or so. If you wish to have a comment included, all you have to do is write it.

1st Extract

War Diary 9th Bn York and Lancs. Regt.

June 1st Bn was relieved in the early morning in the BUND by the 12th D.L.I. There were two casualties on the way to camp owing to enemy shelling back areas with gas shells. The Bn arrived in P camp at 3.30 am, but moved in the evening to bivouacs at S24 b4.5

June 2nd to June 5th Bn at S24 b4.5 Coys were inspected by the C.O. and thorough organisation of coys for the for the coming offensive was carried out.
On the evening of the 5th the Bn moved via Vlamertinge, Hruistraat and the N end of BUND to the following dispositions. Bn H.Q. HALFWAY HO. A, B & C Coys WELLINGTON CRESCENT
and D Coy MAPLE TR.

The sketch map from 1915, although out of date, shows the location of Halfway House and Maple Copse. (Maple TR Above?) Click on the map for an enlarged view.

June 6th On the evening of the 6th Bn moved to assembly positions previous to the attack. Bn front being from N end of CANADA St to dead end of front line. There were no casualties whilst the Bn was assembling.

The battalion is nominally around 1000 men, split into 4 Companys. Harry was in "C" Company.

Passchendaele 31st July 1917

After the success of Messines, the troops were in the "hold" phase of the "bite and hold" strategy. From research, there is a strong opinion that it would have been better to continue with the momentum from that first attack and to press on while the Germans were in disarray, with their morale badly dented.

However, that was not the strategy adopted. Consequently, in the two week pause, the Germans had an opportunity to establish new defensive positions.

On 31st July, a new offensive was started with objective being the small village of Passchendaele. Harry would have been involved in this dreadful phase of the war.

The weather was not kind. The big problem was mud. The picture included here was taken on 1st August 1917, shows a stretcher party struggling through the mud.

Extract from the London Times 1st August 1917 "LONDON, Both British and French troops gained further ground today along their new front in Belgium, in spite of the heavy rain, which, falling since early yesterday afternoon, has turned the battlefield into a sea of mud and rendered major operations impossible."

In an earlier letter, Harry mentions going for a bath "two weeks ago".

"I died in Hell
(they called it Passchendaele); my wound was slight
and I was hobbling back; and then a shell
burst slick upon the duckboards; so I fell
into the bottomless mud, and lost the light"
Siegfried Sassoon