Marched to PONT DE NEIPPE and billeted in a farm just outside the village. We could hear the old familiar sounds in the distance, the rockets from the trenches.
Marched through PLOEGSTRESTTE, and took up position beside the 35th Battery, behind a ruined chateau, on the grounds of which had once been a beautiful garden.
We ran our line beyond the chateau to some ruined houses, from where we had a good view of the German trenches and MESSINES beyond.
On my way back, I went into a partly wrecked house and was surprised to find a young woman and her brother, and her five little children. The baby I took from its bed, for it reminded me of my own, she gave me some hot milk. As well as I could I tried to induce her to go away to a safe place, but she would not. She told me her husband a soldier, had been killed. I was rather upset I think over the poor little kiddies - I gave them my peppermints and odd money and came away. I never had time to go that way again, but I thought of the kiddies very often.
Dec. 18th to 20th
Remained in position for a bombardment of MESSINES. Did little firing until 20th, when the bombardment took place - it was horrific, but we had nothing much at the guns in return. The wagon line was shelled out in the morning, but fortunately only one man was wounded. We left position at 5 o'clock and marched back to our rest billet.
Dec. 21st to 23rd
Remained in rest billet until morning of 23rd, then marched to BETHUNE and billeted in a school house. George and I having no blankets, resolved to find a bed somewhere, and while asking a Frenchman in our best French, his daughter came along and invited us to their house, which was only a little way down the street. They were very poor, but treated us handsomely.
The mother, an elderly woman, doted on us, and gave us as much as we could possibly eat and drink. She made us up a bed on the floor, she called us at 3:15 am and had coffee ready for us. On leaving she was indignant when we went to make payment.
We marched at 4:30 am towards LA BASSEE to take up position. It was Christmas Eve - a very grim Christmas Eve, and my thoughts were far away.
We took up position at CAMBRIN, CUINCHY and GIVENCHY were just on our left; all were in a state of ruin, for heavy scrapping had been recently taking place.
George and I took over the wires of the 47th Btty, and were very busy firing up our communications. We had a grand observing station - a ruined brewery - It was beautifully furnished - but everything was ruined, lovely carved furniture and ornaments - in pieces - a piano, and large gramophone, everything had been left as it stood. I secured plates, cups and an assortment of cooking utensils and took them back to the guns.
Late that night I had orders, to get into communication with 2nd Infantry Brigade. It was uncomfortable laying the line on account of rifle bullets, but did the job without mishap and got back to my dugout.
The thoughts of the previous Christmas Eve were with me, and I felt anything but happy.
I forgot it was Christmas Day for I was busy firing up communications all day. All was very quiet - it was a mutual truce.
I had a piece of bacon for dinner - one of the chaps secured a chicken and some vegetables, and at night we had a feast. George came down from the observing station, and with couple more, we went to a large house nearby and collared a piano, and brought it to the guns.
We had a concert, it was not a great success - but we made the best of it. There were many poor devils much more worse off than us.
Rather quiet, occasional shelling.
I had a sorely needed wash, the first for four days.
We did little firing. The dugout was swamped, so we moved into a small shed at rear of farm. It was very cold and drizzling rain.
Dec 27th - 28th
Nothing unusual, we fire at intervals, at working parties of Germans, and into trenches. They search for us but all over, and save for a shell now and again, nothing near us.
Kept up very slow fire at long intervals throughout nights.
Am on duty day and night with phone, but am so used to it, that it takes little or no effect, although I never have a complete night's rest when in action.
Dec. 29th and 30th
Did much firing - and were credited with smacking up a German Field Battery near LA BASSEE.
The morning was rather quiet.
At 2:30 pm we were subjected to a fierce bombardment and a heavy attack. The enemy capturing the KEEP, by the railway embankment, from the Kings Royal Rifles, who then recaptured it again late in the afternoon.
About 10pm the Germans again attacked and gained the KEEP and REDOUBT. We were firing heavily all night, it was very cold. After two attacks we succeeded in again retaking the lost ground about 3 am, but could not hold it, the KRR's being 'bombed' out soon after gaining possession.
Throughout the night until about 8 am we kept up hot fire - the New Year had came in, in real war like style.