A horrible stench

Foraging for provisions in the French countryside could be challenging in unexpected ways.

Sunday 14 April 1918.

Rose at 8 am. Cozens Hardy not at all well. Has a high fever. Took working party with me to hangars again, a stiff job, which we completed by 1.15 pm after a struggle. I did not like the engineer chief under whom I was working. He was “naggy”.

After lunch had a sleep. Cozens Hardy gone into hospital. Capt. Dillon’s taken over company.

After tea went with Frost the Mess waiter & got 2 kilos of very good pork from a farm nearby. The farmer’s wife was cleaning offal, the most horrible stench emanating therefrom & she in polite French offered me a chair with her beady brown eyes sparkling.

Before dinner I wrote letters, & after dinner cleared up. Read In Memoriam to the accompaniment of the sound of shellfire & to sleep. In bed by 9 pm.

Diary of Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EZ177/8/15)


“My perfect innocence of what is what in war”

Sydney Spencer was interested to find an American doctor was treating British soldiers.

Saturday 13 April 1918

8.53 pm. Enemy seems to be attacking from NE as I write. Heavy art[illery] duel seems to be in progress, at any rate it seems heavy to me, in my perfect innocence of what is what in war.

Cozens Hardy is not at all well. I think he has a chill. He went to bed early. The American doc dosed him with salts. He looked so quaint with his rough burly form squatted on the ground solemnly making up his dose. He wore his wooly lining with [Sarn brown?] over the top & looked quite of the Northern latitude.

This morning I took charge of company for digging trenches round 17.40 over by the hangars. Another day [illegible]. Task lasted from 9-2.30. Slept till 3.15. Then inspected company for gas masks and equipment etc. Had dinner at 7.15. Am now in bed. A rough windy day. No aeroplane work today.

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15)

“I have lain on the ground with my Burberry on, & a kit bag for my head”

Sydney Spencer was short of one bag of his personal kit.

Thursday 11th April 1918

I got billets & men settled in by about 3 to 3 am [sic] this morning. ‘A’ Company in an aeroplane hangar. ‘B’ company in billets. ‘C’ and ‘D’ company in tents (very bad, but could not be helped).

QM had lost my kit bag or else dumped it where I could not find it so from 3 till now at 8.30 I have lain on the ground with my Burberry on & a fleece lining another chap lent me for my feet, & a kit bag for my head. Today we move further back to Harfronville.

Friday (but we didn’t) we remained on till Friday morning. In the evening the company bathed & I found the names of owners of billets we used. Nos 140:2, 4:6 & 147. Went to bed at about 10 pm.

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15)