1915 – January 27

Arrived Chocques at 8.30 a.m. After being up all night getting people on and off at Aire, Arques, Berguette, and Lillers. Right in the thick of war again, the Germans are shelling Béthune just alongside and the guns are thundering. We have had to get our wounded out from there and the station is full of woe-begone looking fellows on stretchers. Aeroplanes, our own and the French, buzzing busily over head, Motor cars, ambulance wagons, and Supply Lorries tearing about – quite like old times. The Germans are pushing us hard here and have caught us napping, taking a lot of our trenches, most of which, but not all, we have retaken. Brought up Capt. Pearson, an English American for Maxim-gun officer, 2nd Battn K.R.R. a good fellow – in business – tells us he knows he will be killed, has made up his mind to it, but quite cheery. Also a wounded Black Watch officer, retiring after a bullet in his head – Captain Redie. Went into Béthune – the people have plenty of sang-froid, the very café that was shelled was filled with people and the town seemed quite natural bar broken glass in the streets – A beautiful old Church – good stained glass – not old. Left Chocque and reached Boulogne 10.45 p.m.

1914 – July 1st, 5th, 7th

July 1st

What a journey that was from Ryde! – so hot and the train so crowded and I got the sunny seat and we stopped everywhere. Reached here all right in the end in this beautiful old Christopher Wren house. Captain and the Hon. Mrs. A. Thorne – 3rd Grenadier Guards. It is extremely kind of them to put me up and mount me. My charger is a weight carrying polo pony “Sparrow” and is a good willing goer. Gen. Maxse commands the Brigade which is composed of Coldstream Gds, Scots Guards, Black Watch and Munster Fusiliers – a very keen and highly-trained lot. Yesterday the Maxim gun officer, Captain Payne-Gallwey of the Grenadier Guards, gave me 1½ hours exhibition of the Coldstream team and I have never seen anything better. The heat is awful and I am burnt to bits – shall really be quite glad when it is over. No news yet of Bay turning up to take me for a flight in his machine. Night operations last night. Rather stiff from riding, not been on a horse since January. 7.p.m. out on the range all day watching tactical competitions. Black Watch very good, also Coldstream Guards – Munster Fusiliers and Scot Guards very bad.

I am now numbered among those few individuals who have flown in the air! Bay* arrived and took me for a splendid flight all over the country about half an hour, sensation splendid, but you feel death at your elbow. No notion of sickness or giddiness. As I had implicit confidence in my pilot Hubert Harvey-Kelly*, my gallant nephew, it was just unalloyed pleasure to me. One of the eventful days of my life.

*Hubert Dunsterville Harvey-Kelly, son of Stalky’s sister Constance. Known as Bay. 

July 5th

Heckfield. Such peace and repose after turmoil in this sweet little spot. I arrived from Farnborough via Winchfield yesterday at lunch and found my beloved looking very well and happy. Triss, Henry and Lucy all cheerful. Friday was a really hard day for me and I was surprised myself that at nearly 50 I could do so much without tiring. I was up on Friday morning at 7.30 a.m. and left at 8.a.m., rode 10 miles to the 6th Brigade rendez-vous near Hankley Common – did the day’s work with the 1st Batt, 60th Rifles – raining windy and very cold, was wet through twice and dried again. From there rode 10 miles back in time for the 1st Brigade Rendez-vous at 4.30 p.m. west of Aldershot. Fought a retiring action with them till 9 p.m. I got a fresh pony at 4.30 thank goodness (and Thorne), marched by night the whole Brigade to Bisley. Lay down in the heather, rather cold and wet, from 11.30 to 1.30. Night march again, 6 miles to get the enemy’s flank. A great battle 6.30, then a pow-wow and ride home 6 miles, breakfast, bath and then to catch the train. I certainly enjoyed my bed and sleep last night. I have learnt a lot from the Guards’ Brigade as to how excellently things can be done.

[British Pathé video of British Army manoeuvres at Aldershot]

July 7th

We came to Kidlington from Heckford yesterday. Susanna [daughter, b 14 Jul 1911] has been very ill, but looks quite jolly now, has no appetite and will not put on weight.