Batteries rotated the responsibility of duty battery weekly: the duty battery provided men for guard and picquet duty, and did stable duty on Sundays while others had their day of rest.
Picquet is the term used for a group of soldiers assigned to particular watch or guard duty, although in the Field Service Regulations it is spelled piquet. The terms is now more commonly spelled picket, but the Field Service Regulations reserves that spelling for the stakes to which horses were tied out in the open, or picketed.
According to Archie Wills, it was not uncommon for a stable picquet to post one sentry while the rest took it easy. He tells of one occasion when a sentry was told off by an officer.
‘Why didn’t you halt me?’ he questioned.
‘I did call out, sir.’
‘Why didn’t you shout then?’
‘Well, sir, the rest of the picquet’s asleep sir.’ (1)
It can’t have been all that restful. Sleeping in the hay was warmer, but the company was less than desirable: “There are some great rats in this country. They’re as large as rabbits.” (2)
(1) Wills, Archie. Diary.3:98 December 6, 1916. Archie Wills Fonds, University of Victoria Archives. Copyright 2007, University of Victoria.
(2) Wills, Archie. Diary.3:92 November 28, 1916.
The photograph comes from Dodds, W.O.H. Photographs. Brigadier General W.O.H. Dodds Fonds. University of Victoria Archives.