December 2011 brings me to the end of the first calendar year in which I have been creating this blog and filling it with data that I hope you readers are finding interesting and informative. The Roll of Honour is now complete up to the letter F and the war diary has also reached the end of the first calendar year in which 11th DLI were on the Western Front. The year 2012 will see me continue with this work in the same vein, as well as getting out and about to a variety of venues to publicise the book and talk to interested people. The first of these will be 1 February, when I will be introducing the members of the City of York Family History Society to the letters of Pte Robert Bennett and talking about how the book was created using methods common to family history researchers. Meanwhile – to all readers, regular, casual or accidental: Seasons Greetings!
The battalion war diary for December 1915 stated quite boldly: “engaged on Pioneering Work for the whole month” and proceeded to list everything the men had to do. Much of this work was in the trenches, which were exceedingly wet. Drainage was improved and the battalion actually revetted the east bank of the River Laies, facing the German lines. As it ran diagonally across the British trenches, it is no wonder that conditions were so bad and that there was a never-ending requirement to rebuild trenches and get rid of water. Nevertheless, there was time to have Sundays off for baths and rest. Even Christmas Day was a holiday, but under strict orders that there should be no fraternisation this time.
For most of the first half of November, the battalion alternated between spells in the trenches in front of Rue du Paradis, and spells on working parties. Sections of men were frequently called on to assist with mining and tunnelling work. Others made winter stables for the horses and improved the standings for the animals. In the second half of the month more time was spent behind the lines doing drainage and road building work. On 10 November the billets at Epinette were hit by German shells, killing three instantly and wounding seven more, two of whom died later.