November 1916 began well for 11th DLI. They marched out of The Citadel and took a train from the railhead to Sailleux on their way for a much-needed rest. Unfortunately their first night was in a rough bivouac, as there were no available billets. The next morning they marched 16 miles in rain to Bourdon along bad roads. The next few days were spent there, cleaning billets, doing drill, PT, having lectures and church parades. On 8 November they marched out for Picquigny, where they stayed for a further week of recuperation, but only after ‘cleaning some very dirty billets’ recently occupied by Aussies. The issue of succeeding to dirty billets is a constant refrain in the battalion diary. Rest at Picquigny consisted mostly of drill, PT, instruction, and a battalion sports day.
Picquigny is a quiet place, a neat stop-off point for modern day travellers on the way from Dieppe to Amiens and the old Western Front areas. We visited it on a Saturday lunchtime and there was hardly a soul about, apart from a funny, harmless old guy trying to beg change. But we found a great little auberge where they served up a brilliant salmon salad. Even in out of the way places like this, the French do wonders with simple food.
It was good for the battalion to have a proper rest, as the subsequent weeks would be close to hell. On 16 November they set off for a further week in Corbie (cleaning very dirty billets) and back to the Citadel, which was deep in cloying mud several inches deep. From here they moved on in pouring rain to Montauban, setting up a new camp, improving accommodation, building a light railway and doing much needed drainage – the roads were practically impassable. There was worse to come.