3rd Anniversary of outbreak of war and no sign of it ending. The 25th are back from leave. Many have been to Scotland and speak of it in glowing terms, the people there seem to be most patriotic and have given them a good time.
R. spent the last night of his leave in a poor man’s cottage in Kilmarnock. He couldn’t find any accommodation, and this working man invited him to spend the night. His account of it: a supper of tinned salmon – Dad – Mother and the soldier at the table, the children on the floor, feeding out of father’s hand. Their home, one room. There were two beds, Dad, soldier and little girl of about 10 in one; mother and the rest of the family in the other. They wouldn’t hear of him paying anything. The scotch of the mother was so broad, that he couldn’t understand it at all. No conveniences. Water from tap in yard 3 stories down.
Returned after a ramble of about 8 hours with R. I did two sketches whilst he talked and slept. A queer-looking golden haired and golden toothed girl came along and talked to us. After awhile her (golden) aunt turned up and a chap who appeared to be running the farm. They were by no means typical farmers, and we couldn’t place them. They said something about having been professionals before the war, apparently Music-hall artists. At about 7 we arrived at Tandle Hill Tavern – with the fat landlady, who produced pints of beer, meat-pies, bread and jam and black currant tarts. A very old building near the camp bears date 1668 – and the name – Chadderton Fold.
[Sketch by Lincoln Lee titled ‘Home of Golden Girl, Naylor Cottage, Thornham’.]
New Zealanders here are known as diggers. Whether it has originated from the Kauri gum industry or not I can’t say. I am now in a new hut under a N.C.O. who was in charge of the hut I was in at Featherston and there are actually with me 4 other of the men in old hut 177. Last night had repetition of the two signallers’ boozeroo, but this time one of them (the funniest) was far too drunk to even attempt to be humourous and had to be undressed and put to bed like a bag of potatoes.
Building gun pit this morning and took part in an expedition of depredation on a neighbouring quarry with a party of old soldiers. Two of them held the quarry-men in conversation whilst the rest of us walked off with some large pieces of timber to support the roof of the gun-pit. These returned men are interesting on the war when you get them going. They say that we have more ammunition than the Germans now and are killing them quicker than they us, but that none of these big pushes could possibly lead to final victory. Owing to the state of all roads and difficulties of very kind it is quite impossible to follow up any initial success, the attackers being too exhausted in men and material to be able to carry it further than a mile or two. They say the Hun machine gunners are wonderfully game and fire to the last with one hand up pretending to surrender, and the other on the lever of the gun. These chaps are unanimous that it will simply be a process of wearing them out.
At Rochdale I heard a young girl, daughter of a Labour M.P., addressing the crowd. She spoke well and with great fervour, denouncing (inter alia) the working of children in their disgusting factories, they being the capitalists. I could agree with her.
Saw some very old cottages in Middleton on route march and an old Inn at which Dick Turpin is said to have stayed, the masonry trellised with oak beams. It was the shop’s half holiday and the female population gaped and grinned at us in thousands and at the schools the kiddies were let out in droves to look at us.
Yesterday I had Manchester leave. Set out in company of one Brodie, a signaller. We had a look around the Belle Vue Gardens again. Huge crowds everywhere. Then to Whintworth Institute. Fairly interesting though few famous pictures. There was however a collection of Turner sketches, a lot of water-colours of the old school and a lot of very fine architectural drawings in colour of Belgian and other cities by Prout. Visited the Art Gallery again to get another look at Watt’s pictures and Rodin’s statues. We then went to a cafe limited to 1/3 worth of food, had 2 eggs on toast and three small pieces of shortbread (awful stuff). After a cigar, a liqueur etc. we set out by a different tram route via Hollingwood and Oldham, stopping at the latter for a last drink and look round the weird Fair by lamplight. Finished off with a plebeian feed of meat and potatoes in a “peoples” hash-house where the proletariat were gorging potato-pie, horseflesh, and other delicacies. The profound, ugly, hopelessness of life in these big manufacturing towns baffles description – millions of moony girls and youths and poor dirty little kiddies whose whole life is passed in gloomy streets of tenement houses, without gardens or any kind of decoration.
[Note – below image is the cover of the 1917 “Official Guide” to the Belle Vue Gardens, Manchester. A link to the full guide can be found here].
Practice wearing gas masks, hideous and stinking things they are. I should think the main thing in a gas attack would be to keep your head. Rumour (Latrinalia) that we will be here for months, but it goes hand in hand with an assertion that we go to Mesopotamia! Raining hard but the chaps can’t resist the temptation to go out and blow their pay. R. has gone out to buy a flute, an instrument he plays from ear. I am quite interested in him. Though he is only 21 and has been brought up on a farm he has a teacher’s certificate. He is a peculiar-looking chap with a high pointed head and very curved features, almost jewish. Loves hard work, yet a dreamer.
Tell O’Meara that I have smoked his pipe every day since he gave it to me and it is still going strong, but not too strong.
The state of hard-upness of most of the men a few days before pay-day is amusing; auction sales of their belongings; pennyworths of cheap cigarettes etc. The last development has been to keep the gas alight and a few dead matches on the table, as most of them are out of matches. Cadging is rife but one has to be firm.
Route march this afternoon – awfully hot and after a couple of miles we had half an hour’s rest in a paddock listening to selections from the band. The cattle became very attentive listeners and invaded the ring of instrumentalists, also nosed around the reclining officers, much to general merriment.