As the German Spring Offensive began to unfold on the Western Front, the 6th Battalion of Shropshire Light Infantry under the command of Major Harold Welch took up positions to hold the British line between Bray St Christophe and Aubigny. An attack by German assault troops on the night of 22-23 March forced the Battalion to fall back and relocate to the village Arvillers, where they waited to be relieved by the French. However, on the morning of 28 March the Germans attacked the Battalion’s line again, first by heavy bombardment and then by a massed infantry attack. This time the Battalion succeeded in driving back the Germans but not without heavy losses. Welch sent an urgent message to the 60th Brigade Headquarters declaring that his men would be unable to hold the line for much longer and received orders to withdraw. Having spent the night in the nearby Rifle Wood, Welch and his troops began to march towards Mezieres to support the 59th Brigade, which was under attack there. The march took the Battalion through heavy enemy artillery fire, a fire that had fatal and tragic consequences for the Armstrong family.
Monday 1 April
I stayed in bed all day, & read, & finished “Meg the Lady”,1 by Tom Gallon. Muz washed me & brushed my hair, then she wrote letters. In the afternoon, Muz & Tom went up to Bakers to get her bicycle, that he was mending. Muz was up with me a lot, & Heppie was packing for tomorrow, & Muz creepied me. When I was going to sleep Mrs Reynolds went away, as her brother in law died, & her sister is com
ing to look after us.
Tuesday 2 April
Muz was up at about seven to see Heppie off. Baker is taking her to the station for the eight train, she is going to Clodagh to see about the potatoes being planted etc: & will be away for several days. I stayed in bed all day, & read, & finished “His little girl”2. Muz was running about doing a lot of things all day, & she & Mrs Lawrence changed the furniture in our room, then I got into Muz’s bed, after lunch she came & creepied me, & I went to sleep for a bit, we went to bed at about ten.
Digging ground to grow potatoes
Wednesday 3 April
I stayed in bed all day. Muz washed me & then brushed my hair, & put oil into it. Finished reading “The Honourable Mr Tawnish”3 by Geoffrey Farnol. Muz got a wire after lunch from Mrs Pak, saying Jimmy had been killed, but no details, so we don’t know when it happened. It is too awful for Zooie. We wrote to Zooie & Mrs Welch, & Muz wrote most of the afternoon, then went out for a little walk. Mrs Lawrence stays till after tea, so Muz & Tom have to get supper ready & do everything for the night. I played patience, as Muz wouldn’t let me read. We went to bed at about ten. I suppose we will hear more about Jimmy in the morning.
Thursday 4 April
I stayed in bed all morning, & read most of the time, & finished “Diana”4 by L. G. Moberly. Baker drove Muz & Tom in to Malvern, to call for the three boys, & bring them out here for tea, & I was up when they got back. After tea we played “Up Jenkins”5, & old maid6, & who’ll be married first, & the boys loved it, then Muz & Tom drove back to Malvern with them, & I read. They got back at about eight. After dinner I read again, & Muz did too.
“The boys loved it”
Friday 5 April
A wire from Mrs Pak this morning, that a shell burst at Jimmy’s feet, but no more details. I got up, & read downstairs all morning. The doctor came after lunch, & said I could go out. Muz & I went to the post office before tea, & for another little walk afterwards, then we got supper ready, & read for a bit afterwards. We went to bed at about 9-30. Heppie says she doesn’t think she will be back till next week, as it has been raining & Gower hasn’t been able to put the potatoes down, except a few drills.
Saturday 6 April
It rained nearly all day, so Tom & I didn’t go out we read nearly all day. Muz wrote letters & then went for a walk to the post office & then read the rest of the time. Tom & I got supper etc, & washed up afterwards, then Tom went to bed, & Muz & I went to bed at about ten. Ione is seeing a lot of Harry, in London now, as his arm is still bad.
Sunday 7 April
Jess: I stayed in bed nearly all day “Jimmying”7, read nearly all the time, & finished “Don Orsino”8 by Marion Crawford. Muz wrote letters. Muz painted my throat, as it is a bit sore still. Got up at about seven, so as to get dinner ready etc: then went up to bed early, & Muz came up later, after writing, & then we talked for a bit. We heard from Rosie this morning, they have heard from a man in Jimmy’s regt: & he says that he was talking to the men, & that a stray shell hit him, & he was so badly wounded, that he died in ten minutes.
The death of Major Harold Welch
Meg the Lady (1905), a melodramatic crime novel by Tom Gallon (1866-1914); it was turned into a silent film in 1916 ⇑
His Little Girl (1912), a novel by Lucy Gertrude Moberly (1861-1931) ⇑
The Honourable Mr Tawnish (1913), a historical novel by Jeffery Farnol (1878-1952); it tells the story of a fashionable London Gentleman Horatio Tawnish and his attempts to shake off his reputation as an effeminate dandy in order to win the heart of the woman he loves ⇑
Diana (1907), another novel by Lucy Gertrude Moberly ⇑
A party game of two teams in which the players of one team pass a small coin under the table back and forth from one player to another and the players of the second team attempt to correctly identify which hand the coin is under ⇑
A card game, also known as Black Peter, played with a pack of cards from which one Queen has been removed. The goal of the game is to form and discard pairs of cards and not to be left with the solitary Queen at the end ⇑
Don Orsino (1892), a novel by the prolific American writer Francis Marion Crawford (1854-1909). Set in Italy where Crawford was born, the book tells the story about the effects of social change on an Italian family in the wake of the burst of a real estate bubble ⇑
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