Witley, April 30, 1917

Monday        We left camp at 7:15 last eve. I mounted guard Sun night & scouted for area’s [sic] today The weather is great & life out doors is simply great am feeling good

21 [Men and shelter] adjustedArtillery units quietly moved out last night, and were in position by the wee hours this morning, ready to fire at daylight as part of the tactical exercise. Percy’s battery must have been in relief, as they are not involved in the firing today.

By contrast, Archie’s battery was hard at it. Having got their wagon lines established and 20f Watching for aircraft crop.jpgtheir guns laid on the SOS line by 2 am, they were awakened by an alarm at 4:30. Thereafter they were busy all day “blazing away,” he said, “firing 197 rounds all told.” (2) Aeroplanes were expected, but when one finally appeared, the sentry was asleep. “We saved his scalp by sounding the alarm.”(2)

They were not so busy that they couldn’t snatch a nap from time to time, and at lunch time, finding their rations “pretty slim,” Archie and three others set off for the “Pride of the Valley,” a few miles away in Churt. (The hotel still exists.) “We were overtaken by the general and after considerable questioning were directed back to the camp.” (2)

This evening, Trench Mortar Batteries, occupying lines designated as enemy positions, will light a series of fires to represent a gas attack. Observing Officers in the front line will call SOS, and the batteries will open fire. All night long observation and communication will be carried out, despite the efforts of men from those Trench Mortar batteries to cut telephone wires and interrupt communication. (1)

Archie and his crew,  however, are relieved and go back to the wagon lines for some sleep about the time this attack begins.

The War Diary entry for today ends on a note of self-congratulation: “All arrangements worked well & steadily.” (1)

The first photograph from Percy’s large album shows a temporary shelter, and to judge from its context in the album, represents some of  his share in the Tactical Exercise. The second photo, from the same album, has the caption “Watching for aircraft.”

(1) War Diary of the Fifth Canadian Divisional Artillery. Vol. 3 (April 1917): 6. April 29/30, 1917. Library and Archives of Canada.
(2) Wills, Archie. Diary. 4: 47-48. April 30, 1917. Archie Wills Fonds, University of Victoria Archives. Copyright 2007, University of Victoria..

Copyright 2017. See “More about this project.”
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