ALAN TUCKER

Open Warfare

The Diary of Capt. Arthur Impey, 79th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery

People Mentioned in the Diary

In his diary Arthur Impey names a number of individuals but, unfortunately for the modern reader, refers to some people only by their surname initial. Identification can sometimes be confirmed by references made in the 79th Brigade War Diary. The frequency with which people are mentioned depends on Impey’s own posting within 79th Brigade RFA. He also more commonly mentions officers rather than ordinary soldiers although four Sergeants are specified.

Upon his return to France he was posted to ‘A’ Battery, 79th Brigade, 17th Divisional Artillery as a subaltern (Lieutenant) which disappointed him because in late 1916 and 1917 before he was injured he had been an Acting Captain. There was, however, no vacancy for a Captain amongst the four batteries of 79 Brigade. His Battery Commander was Jimmy Glover with Wilmott initially as his second in command. There were probably two other subalterns besides Impey, one of whom was Ferguson or Fergie or ‘F’. On August 24th Arthur walked to D Battery where he found the four Battery Commanders in conference with the Colonel. He recorded that “all four were friends of mine and three had been subalterns when I left the Division 10 months ago”. The commander of C Battery he only refers to throughout the diary as ‘1’. By September 30 ‘1’ had taken over as Acting Brigade Commander although substantively he was the Major in command of C Battery. At different times Impey played bridge with him, had dinner with him at his chateau and flew over the front line with him. On November he had a lucky escape when a gas shell came into Brigade HQ but those there had managed to escape into the cellar without casualties. On the evening of November 11 ‘1’ celebrated the end of the war with Impey and two other officers.

Jimmy Glover also had a close shave on August 26 when a whizz bang missed him by two yards as he went forward to find an Infantry Battalion HQ. On September 18th Glover received a nasty wound with a bullet in the groin which bled considerably. Impey reported that the doctor hoped he would be OK but his name is not mentioned again suggesting that at least he survived the war. ‘Mac’ now took over as commander of ‘C’ Battery.’Mac’ was Major V.N.Mackenzie MC. On September 28 Mac and Impey were sharing a dugout when the battery came under phosgene gas attack.

On September 4 Captain H.W Gordon MC (‘Gordo’) was wounded, probably having replaced Wilmott, giving Impey the opportunity to move back to the rank of Acting Captain in A Battery. On September 22nd he was formally recognised as second in command of the six guns of ‘A’ Battery.

On October 6 ‘Old Mac’ and some of his staff were fired on. “He’d been told we held the ground for 2000 yards ahead and acted accordingly. He was damned lucky to get off with a few splinters in the horses and one in his bottom which he received just as he was diving like a rabbit into the only cover he could see….it turned out to be a Hun OP…He stayed there in luxury for the next three days”. On the fourth day, however, he was less fortunate and was wounded with a splinter in the head although the wound was not serious. The next day Arthur Impey replaced him as Acting Major. On October 31 Mac received Impey’s admiration when he returned to duty – ‘Not a bad effort to return from England within three weeks of being wounded, however slight the wound. On November 3 Mackenzie resumed his command of A Battery. On November 8 Impey was posted back to ‘A’Battery as Acting Captain.

Three other officers who have mentions in the diary are Hollingworth (‘H’),‘Old Tim’ and ‘E’. Hollingworth goes forward to observe with Impey and is found at other times in charge of bringing the main battery forward. On another occasion he was given responsibility for bringing the ammunition wagons forward. On September 27th Impey reported that Hollingworth had ‘bad wind up’ and on at least two occasions was very unhappy with him, once for putting the mess in the wrong place i.e. a risky place and once for taking too much notice of what an infantry officer had to say. ‘Old Tim’ appears to be the ‘C’ Battery officer with special responsibility for the wagon lines and the movement of ammunition forward. On October 7th Impey thought he had done a ‘damned good bit of work’ to bring up 36 wagon loads before dawn. ‘E’ was probably Second Lieutenant D.M. Edington who joined the battery as a new subaltern on November 1st. Impey recorded his bad luck on his first day in action when he was in charge of a working party and two men were wounded and one killed.

Other officers are mentioned in passing in the diary. There was Mollet, the Brigade Adjutant, Gus who had a ‘palatial mess’, Hindley who turned up in a car from CRA,’the red tabbed world’, on October 29 to explain future operations in Mormal Forest. On the evening of October 19 “Old King came round very cheery with his watch, gave us the time (synchronisation before firing the next morning), had a drink and departed on his mission. In less than an hour ‘1’ rang me up from Brigade and told me that poor Old K had run into a 5.9 just outside Inchy and was very badly hit, arms and thighs broken and hit in the head too. He was very cheery and plucky but they feared he was done for”. He was for on October 20 Second Lieutenant C.W.King died of wounds at the Casualty Clearing Station.

‘N’ was one of Impey’s battery officers when he received a leave warrant on October 22. Impey “had to let him go although it left me with only one other officer”. On November 3 ‘N’ shared with Impey a round machine-gun pit as a mess in a brickyard. ‘S’ appears to be another battery officer who lunched with Impey on October 24 on “bully beef and whisky and soda. S and I beginning to feel the strain a bit of having to do all the work between us”. Two days later Impey was worried about having to confess to ‘S’ that he had dropped a bottle of whisky and a bottle of port, half of what he was carrying. ‘S’ may have been Simpson. Second Lieutenant W.D.Mathieson was another battery officer who was wounded on November 4.

One officer colleague and friend was Marshall of 78th Brigade RFA which advanced as part of the same Artillery brigade as the 79th. From first arrival in France in August 1915 to July 1917 Impey himself had been a member of the 78th. In August 28 Impey met Marshall whilst he was out reconnoitring with Strudwick, one of his colleagues. Marshall was probably a battery commander but had commanded his Brigade for three weeks and was ‘covered with decorations’. On October 6th they had a bet over when the war would end at Marshall’s mess at Gonnelieu. When they dined together on October 17th they talked over old times.

Four sergeants are recorded in the diary – Matthews, Tot, Stuart and Jessup.

“There I found everyone most cheerful. Mathieson with a broad grin on his face told me he had a splinter through his arm. 3 of the Nos 1, rather badly hit, were lying on stretchers waiting to be carried away. The other 2, hit in the arms and legs, refused to leave till the barrage was over and were carrying on, patched up with bandages . The men had been evacuated already. Above all was Sergeant Matthews, absolutely unperturbed, thoroughly enjoying himself, going from gun to gun, giving what help he could, inspiring all the gunners by the very obvious fact that he didn't care a damn what happened and on the whole rather liked things”. (November 4)

Tot was ‘my invaluable Sergeant Tot’. Corporal Thorpe,’old friend’, was mentioned in sad circumstances having been killed during the evening of October 21st. Fitter Corporal Charles Thorpe now lies buried in Neuvilly Communal Cemetery Extension. He died aged 28 leaving behind his wife, Annetta, at The School House, East Stoke, Wareham, Dorset.

On October 25th Sergeant Jessup went ahead with Impey “as always smiling with pleasure at the prospect of going forward”. “One of a wonderful type, always at their best in action, brave, cheerful, self-sacrificing, reliable literally to the point of death, the most likeable of companions for enterprises like these, more use than 9 officers out of 10, yet so often spoilt when made officers themselves”.

Two RAF officers also feature, again just with initials. On October 26 when the Brigade was sent back behind the front to rest at Clary, Impey and ‘1’ set off for an airfield at nearby Bertry to find ‘C’, who was commanding a wing quite close to the battery. They had lunch with him the next day when the squadron leader at Bertry, ‘P’, arranged a day later to fly Impey over the front line for an hour in a RE8 reconnaisance aircraft.

A range of other people are briefly commented upon...

Various infantry officers, COs, Colonels, Brigadiers etc, that Impey liaised with. One Infantry Colonel was an ‘old friend’. Included Wood of 21st Division.

Brigade Major, 21st Division Artillery. ‘I liked that fellow’

Mess cook who had a fight with another servant

Corps Gunner Staff Captain who came to find out about captured German gas shells

Farrier Sergeant who was ‘one of the best’

The General who Impey played poker with on August 22nd as he returned to duty

Impey’s personal groom

Marsh, our horse master

Morgan of ‘B’ Battery who was badly hit on August 30 (Captain C.D.Morgan)

Nigel – with the CRA

The Padre

The Sergeant Major of the battery

Straafer, a Staff Captain at CRA who plays poker with Impey on August 22 and is with Impey at Mac’s mess on the night of the armistice. He appears to be a liaison officer for the Lancashire Fusiliers.

Doctor Talbot

Town Major at Clary

Traffic Major who shot horses blocking a vital bridge

On November 3 Arthur Impey was posted to command A Battery as Acting Captain having relinquished the rank of Acting Major on ceasing to command C Battery. He was in command because was ‘1’ was still commanding the Brigade. Mac had returned to command his former C Battery.


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Copyright © Alan Tucker, February, 2009.

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