What does the diary extract show about daily life in the trenches?Captain Roland Gerard Garvin was in charge of D Company of the 7th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment. On 20 July he recorded the company as having a fighting strength of three officers, six sergeants and 109 men in other ranks. The company was stationed near Bazentin-le-Petit in preparation for the attack on High Woods, which formed part of the Somme Offensive.
The diary extract shows the monotonous nature of life in the trenches. Captain Garvin records the detail for Friday 21 July starting at 4am with stand to and the cleaning and inspection of rifles. The soldiers spent the rest of the morning cleaning and improving their trenches with a break at 8am for breakfast and lunch at 12.30pm. In the afternoons they were allowed to rest.
On the following day Captain Garvin noted down the formation and objectives of the company’s assault against the enemies’ forces. This was his last diary entry as Captain Garvin was killed by machine gun fire during the attack at 11.30pm that night.
Saturday 24th June Bombardment begins in morning: no sound, flashes and “Very”
lights at night, faint sounds.
Sunday 25 June. Faint sounds till afternoon – Bombardment very loud in
evening and intense through night. Drum rolls of guns,
occasionally long rumble, stabbing salvos, lights flickering and
intermittent white leaping flame
Monday 26th June. - 56th brigade moves to [Buziense Buzienze] Wood in evening. All
quiet. Heavy rain about seven o’clock for a short time.
Tuesday 27th June - Day quiet. 56th Brigade to Henencourt Wood, 57th to Framvillers
Wood, 58th to [ ] in evening. Drumming of guns fairly loud at
night to northward, high flashes along hills, sudden & alone [ ]
again. Quick in succession
Wednesday 28th June. - Steady rain from early morning till towards noon.
About noon General brings word – 48 hours postponement. Weather
clears. Move stopped.
Thursday 29th June. - All quiet, no news.
Friday 30th June - Day quiet. Wind dries ground. Afternoon warm and light. Fine
evening; sunset of gold flame fading through rose and grey-violet to
darkness. Night dark but clear with bright starlight. Gunfire
apparently not excessive. Division concentrates. D.H.2. in afternoon,
Brigade troops in evening. Artillery mainly detached.
Saturday July lst. - Delicious summer morning. Thick mist. Shattering bombardment on
waking. See very little from hill. Hear continuous roar from left
(ENE) Hardly anything to be heard in front or on the right. 13
balloons to S. in a line showing close together. News comes slowly.
Tense expectation. (8.45 – 101st Bde well ahead) 34th division
10.10 am. XV corps level on right
8th Div held up in Ovillers
Satdy. July 1st (Contd)
10.15 Fresh bombardment of Ovillers. [illegible] holding up 10th Corps Rest going well. Wounded struggling back. No more news.
11.30 See certain amount of shelling over German line
12.20 56th Brigade put at disposal of 8th Divn Day hot and bright slight haze
5.20 8th Div all back in trenches. Apparently machine guns from La Boisselle held up advance (Field gun galloped into Ovillers by the Germans) success of French reported. Evening quiet. See heavy guns. Success on left reported. Further report shows advance to have swept over Ovillers and Boisselle. Germans came out of dug-outs after [Aus] took our men in rear
9.30 Heavy bombardment.
10.0 Gunfire terrific. Blended rumble with thud of heavier guns distinct. Red rockets and white starlights going up occasionally. Distant trees and Albert Church show occasionally [illegible] a flash. 12th Div go through on way to take over from 8th Div. One balloon left up. Signalling with lamp
Sunday July 2nd - 8th Div evidently badly cut up and demoralised. Talk to officer
coming back at night.
Night attack of 57th & 58th Brigades delayed owing to ignorance of
new trenches Cheshires get into Boisselle assaulting at dawn.
Very quiet day. News better from other quarters. Fricourt taken by
afternoon. [(Waterpipes] to Fricourt 10 hours after capture).
4 p.m. Attack on La Boisselle by 58th goes moderately well. See field in
evening. Guns bombarding Pozieres. German artillery weak Few
signs of life. Red flare (just south-east of Boisselle. Carrying party
in open S of Boisselle. Medley behind men in open. Transport
coming up across country to reserve trenches. Heaps of refuse and
broken food at dump. Slope back; gun emplacements; poppies.
Albert dusty and deserted. Few troops except groups on outskirts.
Night fairly quiet.
Monday 3rd July - Morning dull; misty sun. Dawn attack on Ovillers complete failure
(10th Corps on left put off attack without giving warning. 57th get into
La Boisselle and join up with 58th.
Noon All round Boisselle. Germans still in centre holding out.
(Monday 3rd July contd)
Map captured on prisoner in afternoon. Copies back for our troops in three
hours after its despatch to D.H.Q. By evening we hold most of Boisselle
entirely. Splendid news of 21st Div. Heavy losses of 57th and 58th Brigades,
especially officers (Three Commanding officers killed or wounded in the
brigade). Saw-backed bayonets found night thunderous. Certain amount of
Tuesday 4th July - Dull morning. Rain threatening Bombing attack up La Boisselle by
56th Brigade in morning. See [Sumley] in afternoon; “a splendid scrap”.
Men cheerful and fighting well. Bad losses. French mortars
See prisoner. Told by his officers that prisoners would be shot. (From
Champagne) Young fellow, very decent. [Old man] Trenches beyond La
Boisselle cleared some way by 56th.
Afternoon. Thunder and fairly heavy rain. Ground very sticky and slippery. (Rain clears
towards evening. Moderate gunnery. Crowds round forward area on road.
Wednesday 5th July. Dull day. Rain threatening Good news of French and Russians
(14,000 prisoners in northern offensive) Sun comes out in evening,
and breeze clears air and dries ground
Afternoon Bombing attack E of Boisselle gets no further
Thursday 6th July. Very little happening. Great congestion on roads owing to
Friday 7th July. - Attack in morning after very heavy and sustained gunning
11 a.m. Heavy rain. All going well, except with 12 Div (Ovillers) up to
Noon. Good news. General [sweep success] south of Contalmaison
Saturday 8th July. - Confused fighting. Contalmaison taken and abandoned (M-G fire)
three times from noon 7th to evening 8th. Mametz Wood holds out
Sunday 9th July. - Heavy shelling of divisional front from noonday onwards. Line
pushed back early today out of Bailiff Wood and Peake Wood.
Good advance in evening and night regains the ground Half-way
through Mametz Wood. Division relieved
Monday 10th July - Heavy bombardment in twilight Curtain of smoke and sparks of
shells bursting. (German apparently) white and red lights singly and
in pairs Mametz Wood taken
Tuesday 11th July - Very little happening. Rumours.
Wednesday, 12th July – Division moves to Henencourt Rejoin battalion
Thursday 13th July Corps inspection
Friday 14th July. - Cannon thunder through the night. Capture of Bazentin, Grand and
Petit. Rumour we’re half through Longueval. General joy Fresh
cannonade at night.
Saturday 15th July - Quiet
Sunday – Tuesday 16th - 18th July Furious gunning
Wednesday 19th July - Move forward past Fricourt. Fine weather.
Thursday 20th July - The fighting strength of D Compy at 12 noon today is
Officers 3 }
Sergeants 6 }
Other ranks 109 }
R.G. Garvin Capt. D Coy.
Friday July 21st detail.
4 am Stand to. Clean and inspect rifles
Clean up trenches
5-7 a.m. - Improvement of trenches
8 am Breakfast
9-12 noon Improve trenches
12.30 pm . Dinners
Afternoon . Rest
Evening . As detailed later
R G Garvin, Capt.
13 - 2 22
14 - 2 25
15 - 1 25
16 - - 24
Saturday July 22nd Platoon Strengths
13. 2 - 16
14. 1 - 18
15. 1 - 20
16. 1 - 19
5 - 73
Infantry . Attack on 4th Army front.
1st on left of 19th, 33rd on right
57th Brigade right of 56th.
Victory here may have wide results
Flares will be carried by 14th platoon. Each officer will carry 2 flares
1 Very pistol to me : 1 to [Porter]
Formation 13, 15, 16 platoons – front line
14 in reserve, with signallers move at 10.45 to
Assembly Point with covering party from Bomb squad 50 yards in
front. Fixed bayonets, 11 rounds
Dig in at once, join up. No noise Verbal order to stop digging
men get down in trench.
- Full title:
- Extracts from the diary of Roland Gerard Garvin after detachment to Divisional Staff from July 1916, from Garvin Papers. General legal and biographical material; 1916-1974, n.d.
- Diary / Manuscript
- Roland Gerard Garvin
- © © From the Garvin archive | Usage Terms: Creative Commons Attribution
- Usage terms
- Creative Commons Attribution licence
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