15 April 1916

Extract from the diary of Lt William Batty, (Liverpool) Regiment

[Lt Batty joined the Territorial Army in the winter of 1912/13 and was a rifleman in the 6th Bn, King’s (Liverpool) Regiment.]

Morning – Bath. Afternoon – Footer match 15 v 16 Cheshires. We won 6-3. Evening – Kinema show, Charlie Chaplin”. Evidently a field day. I can’t remember either the football match or the pictures but I have vivid memories of the bath in an old brewery. In the main brewing room some two or three hundred tubs had been put on the floor and from time to time were filled up with hot water. The men undressed in an ante room and left their clothing there. The uniforms were well steamed and a fresh outfit of underclothing was provided in order to keep down vermin as far as possible. The officers had a separate part of the room on a higher level, screened off by some ragged curtains. It was an amazing sight to look through these down into the main room. There were about four men to each tub and the whole atmosphere was thick with steam, through which a multitude of pink bodies showed dimly. For all of us the bath was very welcome and we found the arrangements very well organised. Strict attention was paid to smartness and cleanliness of person and clothing as soon as we got back from the trenches, and it was about this time that we had a sharp lesson on this point. We were to be inspected by a senior general officer- the Corps Commander perhaps -and since we were still within range of the enemy guns were to parade by platoons or half companies at most. We had exhorted our men to have everything in good order and certainly thought that we could bear close examination. Rifles were spotless, brass buttons glittered, boots were mirrors and altogether the colonel was pleased. Naturally there were stains from the mud in the trenches on the uniforms, and here and there a strap was frayed, a puttee torn. The general was to visit Bacon’s company first and come on to the others. We waited, standing easy, for two or three hours until we got a message that we were to dismiss as the inspection was abandoned. We thought the general had not come, but afterwards heard that he had arrived at Bacon’s parade and after greeting the Colonel and Adjutant had looked at the leading platoon. He then turned and said “Are all your men as dirty as this, Colonel?” Our old man was sporting enough to say “Rather worse General” and leave it at that. “Then in that case I needn’t waste your time and mine by going further” said the General, and got back into his car. Very encouraging. About this time, too, we sent a formal complaint to divisional headquarters regarding the overloading of our men, who, on account of their smaller size, were less able to carry the great amount of trench stores piled on them in addition to their heavy equipment when we moved up the line to a relief. The complaint was carefully investigated and as there seemed to be a prima facie case for our contention that it was asking too much of the men, an experiment was carried out by the divisional staff. We sent a man of the average size of the battalion who was weighed, firstly naked, then with his uniform and boots, then in light fighting order, then in full marching order and finally plus the usual amount of trenching material, barbed wire etc. that was issued in addition. I forget the exact figures but I remember that the weight of the man alone was ten per cent less than the weight of the clothing, arms and stores he was expected to carry! As this was manifestly absurd we were allotted some more wagons to carry picks and packs where possible and our transport did their best to make full use of them.

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