Passchendaele: The second week

Continuing the diary of Gunner Ferguson Hamilton during the battle of Third Ypres, ninety years ago.
(Link to Week One)
Tues 7 Aug. Dull day, aeroplane shooting impossible. We had a Counter Battery programme & also destruction of houses known as Tower Hamlets in front of Gheluvelt.

Wed 8 Aug. Made out new wind charts with 10° interpolation which should be a great improvement on the former 5° ones. Reading “No.5 John Street”. I like social problem literature but so far I haven’t found this a striking book at all. Perhaps the threads are better picked up in the last part of the book.

Thurs 9 Aug. Attack by II Corps on our left was postponed owing to bad weather. Aeroplane shoot on Tower Hamlets. Our former Colonel of the 5HAG (we are now 69HAG), Mr Watson (our signalling officer) informs us, is wondering which battery is destroying Tower Hamlets, his only determining point on his front. Our shoot today was quite successful & Colonel Jacobs will see still less of Tower Hamlets tomorrow. No 2 Gun returned from workshop tonight and No 3 Gun went into workshop.

Fri 10 Aug. Good breeze: White clouds. Blue sky. Spent forenoon washing and writing. It is difficult to keep oneself clean, and opportunity has to be taken each day to do something towards personal cleanliness. Aeroplane shoot on billets a failure. no night task tonight. Hostile shelling from 9.20 till 11 p.m: shrapnel, splinters of which were thudding on our roof and on ground around: also 4.2s, one of which seemed quite close.

Sat 11 Aug. The 4.2 shell just spoken of landed among the artificer’s stores across the burn from us – a dozen yards away. No firing on aeroplane target today. Concentration however & plane may call up later. How time passes! The weeks seem to roll rapidly on.

Sun 12 Aug. Hostile artillery very active last night. Shrapnel and high-velocity shells sent over in addition to gas shells. Splinters were falling around my dug-out. The Second Corps (We are in Tenth) made an attack on our left at dawn this morning: we assisted in the Barrage. Thunder late last night and a downpour of rain. Today fine weather and at times bright warm sunshine. Hostile planes give us close attention. Very little firing done today.

Mon 13 Aug. Hostile artillery again very active. Heavy shrapnel bursting overhead. Continual attention throughout the night, making one wakeful. Two shells this morning seemed to skim just over the BC post. enemy planes are always more active than ours in the morning. We did no firing during the night, and fired just a few during the day, visibility for aeroplane shoot not being good enough. Last night as I came on duty I saw a German plane steadily working its way southwards, and little disturbed by our anti-aircraft guns. Gradually the guns got nearer line and range and the airman had to change course. Suddenly there appeared three of our planes: one detached himself from the others and attended alone to the German who made off, hot haste for his own lines.

To be continued…

No 5, John Street – the book that did not impress Ferguson Hamilton – was in 1922 made into a film. The BFI catalogue describes it thus:

Melodrama. Young heir discovers bad conditions in the factory he has inherited and tries to put things right. The factory is destroyed by an anarchist. From the novel by Richard Whiteing.

No 5, John Street was not a new book, but originally published in 1899, when it had been a best-seller, apparently.

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