Witley, March 23, 1917

Friday         This is the day we should have come out [of quarantine] oh we we [sic] shall have to fit[?] every thing smiling

It sounds as if it might be rather a grim smile. The 15th Brigade has gone to France. Percy and his quarantined mates are in limbo, since yesterday officially part of the 55th Battery. In reality, everything remains the same:  quarantine means that they associate with no one but their original mates anyway.

The 14th Brigade, to which Archie Wills belongs, is still competing in instructional sports. This afternoon, Archie participates in the wheel-changing race, and reports that his team managed the feat in the “rattling good time” of 40 3/5 seconds — not bad for having little practice. They were defeated, however, by a team with an eighteen-pounder that had an unspecified advantage over the howitzers of Archie’s battery. The margin of their victory was less than four seconds. (1)

It was not the only contest of the day. Smarting  from having lost the casualty race on Tuesday because a quick-release gave way at the last minute, officers of the 58th Battery challenged the 66th to a rematch today.

By the time the race began, officers and men had bet £100 ($500):”Pound and ten shilling notes were flying everywhere.”(2)

howitzer nz cropIt was another disappointment for the 58th: “The 66th went home with the spoils and we have nothing but praise for their smart work. To change a draught pole, the lead near horse and a team of wheelers, throwing in a trot of 150 yards, in two minutes and eight seconds, is some performance.” (2)

It was a loss not just of pride: “We are all broke.” (3)

(1) Wills, Archie. Diary. 4: 20. March 23, 1917. Archie Wills Fonds, University of Victoria Archives. Copyright 2007, University of Victoria.
(2) “That Casualty Race.” The O.Pip. 1:1 (April 1917: 9.
(3) Wills. Diary. 4: 21. March 23, 191

The New Zealand 4.5 inch howitzer in this photograph is being pulled by its team at a much more leisurely pace.

Copyright 2017. See “More about this project.”

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