31 March 1916

Extract from the diary of Harrison Johnston, the 15th (Service) Battalion, Cheshire Regiment, 105th Infantry Brigade, 35th Division

4-30 p.m.  We “stood to” at 4.20 a.m. in a horrible snowstorm, and by jove it was cold.  I let them “stand down” as early as I dared.

I had to write a song of hate to the Orderly Room about rations.  Our supply was very short, both grub and fuel, and as I pointed out when I “protested strongly,” the men cannot fight and work day and night, in such bitter weather, unless they have plenty of food and fuel.  Quarter of loaf per day is no use, and bread is the chief difficulty it seems.  What is the use of giving men rice or flour in lieu of bread – might as well give them hay.  However, things were better next day.

The Trench Mortar Officer came up about 9-30 and did a bit of firing. He damaged the Boches wire and burst his parapet in one place, then asked our machine gunners to keep fire bearing on this spot all night so that it cannot be repaired.

We had a bit of revolver shooting at big rats in the evening, but we’re not very good shots I find.

A funny thing happened owing to the frost, which I must tell you.  We have to send in a situation report at 4 a.m. daily giving the direction of the wind.  Daddy reported “gentle breeze due east” – this favourable for gas.  It seems all the people behind the lines got excited and many donned gas helmets.  However, our reports were all S.W. and our people evidently presumed Daddy’s weathercock was wrong.  It had frozen pointing East!

Aeroplanes and artillery working in conjunction had a busy day, but did not strafe us.  Both ours and the Huns’ at it all morning.  Houses behind our lines and Huns’ were set on fire. It was a nice clear day.  Fritz had three sausages (observation balloons) up opposite us – we had some up also.

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