Alexander Pepy’s War Diary – September 1916

SEPTEMBER 1916

The warfare in Europe is spreading even further. Roumania has come in on the side of Russia, now doing well against Austria. Since then Bulgaia joined the Germans to fight Roumania, which asked for help from France and Britain. The response on the Somme was to take Guillemont, and Clery in the French sector. High Wood and the Schwaben Redoubt near Thiepval were not taken. Both on the Salonica and Italian fronts, fighting leads to superficial gains which are soon lost.

Some fifty of the ‘water tanks’, now military weapons, were prepared for action. On the 15th, half were soon damaged by shell- and gun-fire, nevertheless those able to advance assisted the seizure of the accursed High Wood and three by-now flattened villages. One even reached Flers with the Kiwi troops. Eleven days later the machines proved their worth by assisting the capture of Thiepval, Combles and Gueudocourt. The HQ is sufficiently impressed to request the manufacture of another thousand. But the Cabinet is less impressed by how, when once in France, they were taken to the fighting zone. Rumours circulating in the War Office is that the Prime Minister wants ‘his man’ to take over transportation. I hear our Minister is worried. To be fair to him, he has held his post for over two years, a time of massive strain for him running the railways .

In France, where fighting at Verdun continues, the railway tunnel at Tavannes was destroyed by the explosion brought about by a fire in stored ammunition. Unfortunately, not required for the passage of trains, it has housed hundreds of men. Many died, it took three days for the fire to burn out. But I hear the French are still preparing to begin retaking land lost earlier in the battle.

At home, one of the Zeppelin airships taking part in a great raid was spectacularly short down by a small fighter plane. The burning gas was seen for miles, thousands of people cheered; at last there is a means to destroy these inhuman monsters.

Natasha went to Dover by train to collect Madame Legrande and Mariya, I being at a Ministerial meeting that Thursday to discuss changes to improve the transportation of the larger military items. I was asked to attend to respond to questions about the capabilities of the locomotives – Mr. Geddes in the Ministerial team seemed satisfied with their performance. The meeting was adjourned until next day. Meanwhile my wife and our guests trained straight from London to our home. When I got down myself, it was very late, not time to do more than briefly welcome Madame. Next morning I was formally introduced to her, a handsome woman, dark haired and strong Gallic features. Though she was reserved with me, I noticed, when I overheard her with Rose, they talked’ intimately: Rose is once again a chatterbox. What surprised me was Nat, who was paying close attention to Mariya, revelling in her broken English.

On Sunday, in the presence of Natasha, Madame Legrande asked me not to address her as ‘Madame’, but by her Christian name’ Delphine’. I consented. That ‘broke the ice’. After a pleasant lunch, prepared and presented with panache by Flora, I left them and returned to London alone, Natasha having requested leave. With her medical condition, her matron accepts she needs time away.
SEPTEMBER 1916

The warfare in Europe is spreading even further. Roumania has come in on the side of Russia, now doing well against Austria. Since then Bulgaia joined the Germans to fight Roumania, which asked for help from France and Britain. The response on the Somme was to take Guillemont, and Clery in the French sector. High Wood and the Schwaben Redoubt near Thiepval were not taken. Both on the Salonica and Italian fronts, fighting leads to superficial gains which are soon lost.

Some fifty of the ‘water tanks’, now military weapons, were prepared for action. On the 15th, half were soon damaged by shell- and gun-fire, nevertheless those able to advance assisted the seizure of the accursed High Wood and three by-now flattened villages. One even reached Flers with the Kiwi troops. Eleven days later the machines proved their worth by assisting the capture of Thiepval, Combles and Gueudocourt. The HQ is sufficiently impressed to request the manufacture of another thousand. But the Cabinet is less impressed by how, when once in France, they were taken to the fighting zone. Rumours circulating in the War Office is that the Prime Minister wants ‘his man’ to take over transportation. I hear our Minister is worried. To be fair to him, he has held his post for over two years, a time of massive strain for him running the railways .

In France, where fighting at Verdun continues, the railway tunnel at Tavannes was destroyed by the explosion brought about by a fire in stored ammunition. Unfortunately, not required for the passage of trains, it has housed hundreds of men. Many died, it took three days for the fire to burn out. But I hear the French are still preparing to begin retaking land lost earlier in the battle.

At home, one of the Zeppelin airships taking part in a great raid was spectacularly short down by a small fighter plane. The burning gas was seen for miles, thousands of people cheered; at last there is a means to destroy these inhuman monsters.

Natasha went to Dover by train to collect Madame Legrande and Mariya, I being at a Ministerial meeting that Thursday to discuss changes to improve the transportation of the larger military items. I was asked to attend to respond to questions about the capabilities of the locomotives – Mr. Geddes in the Ministerial team seemed satisfied with their performance. The meeting was adjourned until next day. Meanwhile my wife and our guests trained straight from London to our home. When I got down myself, it was very late, not time to do more than briefly welcome Madame. Next morning I was formally introduced to her, a handsome woman, dark haired and strong Gallic features. Though she was reserved with me, I noticed, when I overheard her with Rose, they talked’ intimately: Rose is once again a chatterbox. What surprised me was Nat, who was paying close attention to Mariya, revelling in her broken English.

On Sunday, in the presence of Natasha, Madame Legrande asked me not to address her as ‘Madame’, but by her Christian name’ Delphine’. I consented. That ‘broke the ice’. After a pleasant lunch, prepared and presented with panache by Flora, I left them and returned to London alone, Natasha having requested leave. With her medical condition, her matron accepts she needs time away.
as come in on the side of Russia, now doing well against Austria. Since then Bulgaia joined the Germans to fight Roumania, which asked for help from France and Britain. The response on the Somme was to take Guillemont, and Clery in the French sector. High Wood and the Schwaben Redoubt near Thiepval were not taken. Both on the Salonica and Italian fronts, fighting leads to superficial gains which are soon lost.

Some fifty of the ‘water tanks’, now military weapons, were prepared for action. On the 15th, half were soon damaged by shell- and gun-fire, nevertheless those able to advance assisted the seizure of the accursed High Wood and three by-now flattened villages. One even reached Flers with the Kiwi troops. Eleven days later the machines proved their worth by assisting the capture of Thiepval, Combles and Gueudocourt. The HQ is sufficiently impressed to request the manufacture of another thousand. But the Cabinet is less impressed by how, when once in France, they were taken to the fighting zone. Rumours circulating in the War Office is that the Prime Minister wants ‘his man’ to take over transportation. I hear our Minister is worried. To be fair to him, he has held his post for over two years, a time of massive strain for him running the railways .

In France, where fighting at Verdun continues, the railway tunnel at Tavannes was destroyed by the explosion brought about by a fire in stored ammunition. Unfortunately, not required for the passage of trains, it has housed hundreds of men. Many died, it took three days for the fire to burn out. But I hear the French are still preparing to begin retaking land lost earlier in the battle.

At home, one of the Zeppelin airships taking part in a great raid was spectacularly short down by a small fighter plane. The burning gas was seen for miles, thousands of people cheered; at last there is a means to destroy these inhuman monsters.

Natasha went to Dover by train to collect Madame Legrande and Mariya, I being at a Ministerial meeting that Thursday to discuss changes to improve the transportation of the larger military items. I was asked to attend to respond to questions about the capabilities of the locomotives – Mr. Geddes in the Ministerial team seemed satisfied with their performance. The meeting was adjourned until next day. Meanwhile my wife and our guests trained straight from London to our home. When I got down myself, it was very late, not time to do more than briefly welcome Madame. Next morning I was formally introduced to her, a handsome woman, dark haired and strong Gallic features. Though she was reserved with me, I noticed, when I overheard her with Rose, they talked’ intimately: Rose is once again a chatterbox. What surprised me was Nat, who was paying close attention to Mariya, revelling in her broken English.

On Sunday, in the presence of Natasha, Madame Legrande asked me not to address her as ‘Madame’, but by her Christian name’ Delphine’. I consented. That ‘broke the ice’. After a pleasant lunch, prepared and presented with panache by Flora, I left them and returned to London alone, Natasha having requested leave. With her medical condition, her matron accepts she needs time away.