Sergeant Walter Hallam (1893–1984)
Extracts from his WW1 Diaries
Periods in Front Line in France & Belgium
January 7th 1918  to  Jan 8th 1919


Photographs and diary transcript courtesy of Margaret Granger (Hallam) & Cyril Granger.  (October 24th, 2014).

Walter Hallam

During his time on the Western Front Line his diary entries could not, for security reasons, include any information that might reveal actual locations. Despite this difficulty we can be sure that he fought in the 1918  Somme & Lys battles but it is extremely difficult to obtain proof that he fought  in specific locations. Nevertheless, by careful analysis of the language he uses and the numerous historical records that have now become available to the public it has been possible to deduce where he was on some particular days.

When he wasn’t in the front line he sometimes mentions place names, particularly during transit between locations but he doesn’t always do this. In particular, I have not been able to understand why he excludes place names during the period July 27, 1918 to Jan 3, 1919  when he appears to have been operating almost entirely in reserve roles.

Walter was fluent in French and Latin and he was keenly interested in studying a number of other languages. This was a valuable skill that he undoubtedly used to help those around him and one that was valued by a number of his officers. Examples of the way these skills influenced the selection of some of the work he was given at railway heads and as RTO are clearly visible in the diary entries. This information also points towards some of the likely locations that he couldn’t name directly.

January 7 – Set off from London for France.
January 8 – Arrived Folkeston 10 AM, caught boat Princess Henrietta in afternoon for Boulogne. Marched to camp where we stayed all night in tent
January 9 – Got up at 5 AM & marched to rail station for train to Calais, arrived 2 PM in snow storm. Cold night
January 10 – Issued with rifle and bayonet etc in morning
January 12 – In BEUMARAIS [note 1]
January 23 – Transferred to 10th Lincolns as Pte 425436 for drafting up the line
January 27 – Travelled to ACHET - LE - GRAND in cattle truck [note 2]
January 29 – Set off for ERVILLERS. Put in B Company [note 3]
February 2 – Dug trench under our hut in case of air raid. German aeroplanes at night.
February 4 – Spent night out on a wiring party [note 4]
February 5 – Set off up line wiring.
February 7 – Marched 9 miles to HENDECOURT [note 5]
February 8 – Marched 15 miles to BEUFORT. [note 6]
February 9 – Marched all morning to GOUYEN TERNOIS where my French proved useful [note 7]
February 11 – Took charge of bombing station. February 13 – Told rank was Pte, had to take stripe off.
February 27 – Marched all morning on way to trenches
March 7 – Marched to the line
March 12th 1918 - 1st visit to trenches. Saw position, where shrapnel fell inches from my foot [note 8]
March 13th – Heavy bombardment all night & morning. At the line for 4hrs in morning
March 14th – Enjoyed the song of a skylark midst the din. Went in advance party to front line
March 15th ­– Slept most of day found it difficult to stay awake until stand down.
March 16th – Got 3 hrs sleep between posting my sentries for I was in charge of post
March 17th – Heavy night for duty 2 hrs sleep in afternoon
March 18th – Was relieved from the trenches . Had 5 hr march in the dark.
March 19th – Woke up wet through with having to sleep in old trench in the rain. Water 4ft deep. Worked hard building bivouacs
March 20th – Went into line again as reserve, Worked hard all night. Good rations. Kept awake all night on watch with my sentries
March 21st – Sgt O’Hara badly wounded. Germans attacked us now in the front line at CROISILLES. Drove them back but was spared to survive the withdrawal untouched. Only 20 yds from the Boches [note 9]
March 22nd – Very tired. Got relieved in morning. Had good meal at back of line. Slept in gutter for 20 hrs. March 23rd – Marched 10 kilometres & then stayed in the open stretch of country. Plenty of grass well dried so has good warm bed. Slept 7:30 – 6:30 AM. Good rations
March 24th – Marched all morning ready for posting
March 25th – 20 Francs pay. Marched 14 Kilometres. Was tired.  Good tuck in of chocolate. Got water at farmhouse
March 26th – Marched 20 kilometres in 10 hrs. Feet in terrible state with blisters. Good billet with plenty of clover for a bed! Slept well.
March 27th – Had 8 eggs 6 of which I had boiled hard which I took on the march which lasted from midnight till dawn. Slept well.
March 28th – Plenty of grub to keep me warm. Bought road map for 1.75 Francs
March 29th – No bread but 3 biscuits for the day. Train journey & long march for 5 hrs in the dark. Fagged out. Good sleep in barn
March 30 – Got 2 eggs & 6 slices of bacon. Marched 5 km again good billet in old laundry. Slept well at a French farm. Ate breakfast
March 31st – Marched into the line and went into a good post. Slept well. It was our chief thing. Good rations for tomorrow.
April 1st – Easy day. Fetched rations
April 2nd – Easy day. Fetched rations in pouring rain at night
April 3rd – Left in charge at our post as Sgt Hall out on a fighting patrol
April 4th – Easy day. Good grub. Jerry shelled & gassed road near us all day at short intervals [note 10]
April 5 1918 – Was sent away to Brigade School on a course 15 Kms, knocked me up. Slept well as we had a blanket each
April 6 – Lectures all morning & afternoon. Got some bread & ¼ lb butter at a farm.
April 7 – Had day off. Poor food. Rain pm. Walked to STEINWORK [note 11]
April 8 – Lectures all day. Poor food. Learning a few Flemish expressions so that I could order food.
April 9 – Lecture 12:30. Packed up. Marched off back to line. Carried ammunition. 9PM – 1AM on left of E. Lancs. [note 12]
April 10 – Stood up to knees in mud & water till 4PM when Germans broke through8 & we withdrew via ARMENTIERES. Fearfull time but escaped unhurt. [note 13]
April 11 – Manned a railway station all day. Saw a lot of E. Lancs surrender. Awfully tight corner but Mr Ashstead got us out. [note 14]
April 12 – Dug ourselves in in a field near road. Heavily shelled one dropping 3 yds from my post. Good food. Felt very tired. Thought of home & Lal with no word from me
April 13 – Manned a ditch where we drove jerry back twice. Company made a name for itself in the battalion. Burgess killed poor chap. Many wounded. Hard fight all day. Rain at night. Got a good drink of rum from off George Redfern to whom Jocks gave it. Felt better after
April 14 – Slept day in barn under shell fire. Slept on straw on top of stack. One half of barn set on fire& burnt down
April 15 – Were relieved but stayed behind line digging fresh defence line. Manned it all night & found ourselves on front line in the morning. [note 15]
April 16 – Nearly fainted after stand to over for we had no food for 2 days. Veg Sat – Monday saved what we picked. Capt Newton gave me some whisky. Drove Hun back after terrific struggle. [note 16]
April 17 – Fearful day. Many of our lads done in. Very awful bombardment which lasted 2 hrs. Was hit 3 times but all shrapnel in my clothes so didn’t get a scratch. 18th day on the line. Tired out
April 18 – Held the line all day. I took a prisoner in front of our post Headquarters. We were relieved & left the line. Had a good sleep in a tent
April 19 – Stayed the day at Pop. Good meals all day. Dug ourselves in for 5 in our billet were killed. [note 17]
April 20 – Slept in barn & was nice & warm. Needed the rest badly. Wrote home & Lal from whom I got 6 letters
April 21 -  Rested most of day and kept under cover
April 22 – Marched 6 Km to decent billet. Letter from Lal to whom I also wrote home. Dug trench in morning.
April 23 – Cleaned my equipment. Bombed at night but missed us.
April 24 – Was in charge of paper fatigue
April 25 – Parade till noon
April 26 – Moved into the line again via POPERINGHEAND & dug a reserve line. Then moved again at 5PM & dug ourselves in behind the hedge. [note 18]
April 27 – Easy day but felt fagged out. Sent home & to Lal. Good grub. Hollands made us a meal which compensated for poor dinner
April 28 - Moved out of line at night & did a long march. Got down at 4 AM.
April  29 - Slept  till 9AM. Busy cleaning up. On parade near Railway Head
April 30 – Went out twice with Capt Newton getting him a billet & mesh wire beds. Good night’s sleep
May 1, 1918 – Got night duty for had fearful attack of diarrhoea . Felt weak but managed to sleep 1AM.
May 2 – No letters. Spent morning on parade. Afternoon off. Sent home to Lal. Green envelope
May 3 – Had morning off then went trench digging for rest of day. Slept well
May 4 – On parade all day but enjoyed it because we had a good instructor from the Army School. Warm day. Did an hours work with a needle & 2 letters, one from home & one from cousin Ellen.
May 5 – Went into line and took charge of outpost. Thunderstorm at night & 8 inches of water in trench
May 6 – Drained trench then worked on improving it. Hot day. Good meals
May 7 – Took rations down to outposts. Moved into good billet & got a French book by Victor Hugo.
May 8 – Promoted Cpl, 2 shillings, 7 pence per day - trench digging all morning. Slept well at night in spite of chats. Wrote to Lal
May 9 – Letter from home & Lal to whom I replied. Lovely day. Good food. Worked 6 hrs digging.
May 10 – Moved out of the line & continued as usual with the work all morning. Good billet in hut
May 11 – Promoted Sgt with rank confirmed. Pay 3/3 per day. Was trench digging all day. Moved down to B.H.Q in afternoon for refresher Musketry. Sent to Lal & home  2 field cards. [note 19]
May 12 – Marched off to another camp. Long march. Good billet in tents. Put chevrons up
May 13 – Moved off after march & got a ride to new billets which were awfully chatty. Lovely scenery. Wrote home & to Lal
May 14 – Wrote to Lal & home from whom I heard. Was on Musketry Instruction all day. Cleaned up at night
May 15 - Some work all day, got boots mended & clothes altered to fit. Letters from Lal.
May 16 – Wrote to Lal & home . Got overcoat changed.2 letters from Lal to whom I wrote letter at night. Awfully chatty
May 17 – Went to B.H.Q in the morning & proceeded to 2nd Army S of M in afternoon for refresher course. Felt a treat after bath & good change
May 18 – Fired at range in morning and enjoyed it. Good afternoon. Very hot day. Paraded in shirt sleeves.
May 19 – Received instruction all morning & afternoon. Went down into village after tea. Very hot day
May 20 – Spent morning on range, firing battle practice. Lectures after tea . Wrote up notes after tea & letters home & Lal
May 30 – Procession in village of St Sacrament. Day off for American Decoration Day. I enjoyed myself reading and writing in fields.
June 11 – Moved to fresh village
June 12 – Moved again for 2 hrs – settled in very good place, pretty scenery.
June 15 – Spoke to school master for long time & compared educational methods
June 19 1918 – Packed for my return to my own HQ
June 20 – Awaiting movement order.
June 21 – Left HQ for base
June 23 – Crossed to Folkstone – very rough, got to London 2:30pm. Stayed night at Havant.
June 24 – To Hayling Island for training.
July 18 1918 – Train from Hayling Island to Derby via London. Arrived Derby 7:8pm. Back home at Crich 8:30pm for leave.
July 26 1918 – Start of return  journey to La Belle France. Night in London.
July 27 – Boat train to La Belle – rough
July 28 to 31 – Series of travels including train back to Battalion
Aug 2 1918 – Arrived at our HQ
Aug 5 – Moved away
Aug 6 – Looked around villages and small town
Aug 7 to 12 – Fairly easy days
Aug 13 – Repairing roads
Aug 14 to end of Sep 13 1918 – Mixed general duties away from the line
Sep 14 1918 – Fatigue work. Carrying stones for roads.
Sep 15 – Tarring roads all day
Sep 16 – Tar fatigue all day
Sep 17 – Worked hard digging a Russian pit. Bought eggs and grapes
Sep 18 – On duty at nearby camp
Sep 19 – Cycle orderly again.
Sep 21 – Got sticks in morning to put round sump holes.
Sep 22 – Worked on fatigue in morning
Sep 23 - Fatigue fastening tents up.
Sep 24 - Fatigue all day in chalk & water. Football match in evening.
Sep 26 – Fatigue all morning. Went with Tommy Hall for tea. Had to come back on guard duty
Sep 27 - Camp off. Packed up and sent to act as RTO at a station [note 20]
Oct 1 – Not very busy
Oct 3 – Not allowed into town
Oct 5 – Delighted with letters after being without for so long
Oct 7 – Very poor rations hence hunger. Not allowed to buy in any French shops
Oct 8 – Read a lot, 70 pages of Matthew Arnold
Oct 12 – Busy day swatting French & English literature.
Oct 15 – No letters. Felt awfully fed up and bored to death. Very hungry owing to short rations
Oct 16 – Visited Monsieur Laval for 2 hrs good practice in French.
Oct 19 – Went to my battalion and drew 100 francs pay, but didn’t get my boots mended. Tommy Hall back from leave.
Oct 21 – Repaired telephone wires some Froggie had cut. Quelled a row in billet at 10:30pm
Oct 23 – M. Laval very ill
Oct 25 – Stroll in evening
Oct 26 – Received letters from home. Felt rotten all week having no letters
Oct 27 – Saw M. Laval. Got no boots again
Oct 28 – New boots & winter clothing also a couchette, beds & paliasse
Oct 30 – Not feeling very well. No letters very disappointing
Oct 31 – Back ached badly but carried on with my work. Fearful headache
Nov 1 1918 – Struggled through my work Until 2pm. Interpreted for my officer. Had to go to bed. Then put on a ration lorry, taken to hospital straight away. Temperature 103.8
Nov 2 – Very ill & weak but had to make my own bed. Only R.A.M.C detention hospital and very busy
Nov 3 – Temperature still very high. Good M.O. who gave me every attention. Managed to send letter home
Nov 4 – Wrote home which tired me out although only a short note. Temp. 102.8
Nov 5 – Felt a bit better in morning but had a relapse later in day. Got a chill making my bed for it took me a very long time as I was very dizzy
Nov 6 – Temp down nicely by 7pm. Felt a lot better
Nov 7 – Temp normal
Nov 8 – Tried to get up but soon went back to bed
Nov 9 – Got up today. Discharged from hospital. Paraded with full pack which nearly broke my back. Managed to put it in our mess cart. Was exhausted by time I reached my destination a la Gare. Telephoned my return to Staff Captain Parker
Nov 10 – Had a stroll past a shrine in wood with Jack McKie for an hour in afternoon
Nov 11 – Armistice day. What a night for rejoicing. Very busy working day. Not very strong so took things easy. Signed all papers that had accrued whilst in hosp. Wrote Lal
Nov 12 – Wrote home. Was very tired with slight cold.
Nov 13 – Busy day. Dull foggy. Feeling much better.
Nov 14 – Easy day. Read a good bit of French & conversed with M. Laval.
Nov 15 – Feeling A1. Busy day
Nov 17 – Sgt. McKie & I – to the day when we see Blighty.  20 0’clock – “fraternise – conviviality. Smoked pipe of peace to the day. Heard demobilisation scheme.
Nov 18 – Wrote letter to Lal
Nov 19 – Very cold day
Nov 20 – Easy day enjoyed parcel from Lal.
Nov 21 – My 25th birthday [note 21]
Nov 23 – Very jubilant for men with situations promised of national interest  to be discharged early. Hooray.
Nov 24-28 – Very little excitement but busy.
Nov 30 – Received a certificate from Derby guaranteeing me a situation on discharge. Also a letter from principal of Sheffield Training College for Teachers.
Dec 1 – Lovely walk with Sgt. McKie & Cpl. Turnbull
Dec 2 – Busy day
Dec 3 – Easy day. Felt fed up & out of patience
Dec 4 – Went to my battalion for new clothes but can’t get any although my trouser seat is in holes
Dec 6 – Easy day. Bought some coloured pictures post cards
Dec 7 – Sgts. Alexander & Badman came to see me in the evening. Lovely night. Not too much hard work.
Dec 8 – Nice day. Received word from my battalion that they had found trousers for me.
Dec 9 – Got new trousers. Lovely day. No letters. Felt awfully fed up. My demobilisation particulars taken
Dec 10 – Busy morning indeed. Sent coloured cards to Lal
Dec 12 – Got all my work cleared up. Two of our lads came to go on leave. Good luck to them.
Dec 13 – Very nice day. Was busy. No letters. Very disappointed & fed up all day long. Wretched week. Too fed up for anything.
Dec  15 – Letters from home. Had walk in afternoon to pass the hours away
Dec 16 – Great day with big smash at 2.15pm. Engine and 6 trucks telescoped.
Dec 17 – No letters. Two others going on leave although I’m 3 months before them
Dec 18 – No letters. Walk into town with Jack Carrol off the dump
Dec 19 – Four letters, two had been in a wandering journey. Only 7th down leave list.
Dec 20 – Sent me A.B. 64 to the dump for signature. Sweating on leave.
Dec 21 – No letters. Alex & 2 others went on leave. No news save that the demobilisation of teachers & students is ordered according to news in Daily Mail. Very restless all week
Dec 22 – Sgt. Sutcliffe telephoned me that all leave is booked up to Dec 25th for Xmas now.
Dec 23 – Miserable wet day. Spent half hour with Ms. Laval in the evening to pass the weary hours
Dec 24 – No letters for me. Xmas too. Am properly fed up. No fire. Very cold
Dec 25 – Miserable day indeed. No leave, no plum pudding only spud, mangol wurzel  & a bit of goose. Walked to my battalion and found letters from home & Lal.
Dec 26 – Wet wretched day. Sent cards for the New Year
Dec 27 – No news of leave. Felt fed up. Letter from Lal cheered me up.
Dec 28 – Easy day. Gave M. Laval’s son Henri an hour’s English lesson. Looked forward to New Year’s leave, little hope I’m told.
Dec 29 – Wet rainy day. Out all morning with Captains Newton & Murphy getting billets
Dec 30 – Very wet day. Busy one for me
Jan 1 1919 – 11pm train – on leave. Good send off by the French
Jan 2 – Reached Boulogne & had to stay all night without blankets.
Jan 3 - Walked into town in morning. Parade 1.30pm for boat. Splendid passage, enjoyed it. Reached London 7.30pm & caught 11.50pm from St Pancras. Stayed Derby Y,M.C.A all night
Jan 4 – Reached Woodville via Burton on Trent at 6.50am. Snow 8 inches deep. Knocked them up at house. Had a stroll with Lal later despite weather. What a treat to meet her again after so long. Now sweating on getting my discharge
Jan 5 – Slept well until 11.0am. Had stroll with Lal in afternoon. Enjoyed evening service and stroll afterwards
Jan 6 – Went home by 2.40 from Burton. Stayed in Derby & got certificate of employment from Education Offices. [note 22]
Jan 7 - Went to Derby to get my employment certificate endorsed by Labour Exchange
Jan 8 – Quiet day at home.
Jan 9 – Good day. Received instructions to report to Harrowby Camp, Grantham, for demobilisation, completed papers then slept in camp all night. [note 23]
Jan 10 – Returned to Woodville 1.30pm via Burton by troop train. [note 24]

1: Beaumarais is in the region of Calais
2: Achiet-le-Grand is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in northern France
3:  Ervillers is 9 miles S of Arras, 37 miles South of Lille
4: The term ‘wiring’ means barbed wire
5: Hendecourt is 9 miles N of Ervillers
6: Beaufort, also known as Beaufort-sur-Doron, is a small town in the Savoy Alps NE of Abertville
7: Gouyen Ternois is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in northern France, 3 miles W of Arras
8: In the Croisilles, Pas-de-Calais, area 10 miles SSE of Arras
9: The first day of the Second Battle of the Somme. First German Drive1918, near Croisilles
10: End of Second Battle of the Somme
11. Steinwork is 6 miles W of Armentieres 
12: First day of the Lys Offensive – 2nd German Drive 1918
13: Just over 1 mile E of Armentieres – in retreat
14: On rail line about 5½ miles W of Armentieres & just over 1 mile N of Steinwork – in retreat
15: Just over 1 mile SE of Baillau, Flanders
16: Between Baillau & Mt. Kemmel, (which is 8 miles SW of Ypres)
17: Probably retreated to Poperinge – W of Ypres
18: Either between Mt. Kemmel & Poperinge or just E of Ypres
19: Last mention of trenches
20: From picture post cards sent home possibly Armentieres area
21: Admiral Beatty ordered surrendered German fleet to take down their flags on this day
22: Home in Crich, Derbyshire
23: Demobilisation completed
24: Back home to resume civilian life

Also in his diaries were adresses for Albert Bertram Martin, and Syd Dyson which suggests he corresponded with them.

Mentioned frequently in his 1914 diary were:
Bert Topsham
Fred Taylor – this was perhaps James Federick Taylor (known as Fred Taylor)
Will Hartle
Sam Taylor – this was perhaps Samuel Taylor
Arthur Froggart
Percy Sales – there is a Percy Sayles of Crich who served in Salonika
Syd Dyson
Teddy Mear
Bert Martin
Maurice Kirk
Jim Haslam – this was perhaps James Haslam who served in the RNVR but was a schoolmaster like Walter
Harry Dawes– this was perhaps John Henry (Harry) Dawes who was a school master like Walter
Leslie Smith

He had long walks and cycle rides with Syd Dyson and Will Hartle
He noted that most of the young chaps from Crich went to the Drill Hall at Belper.

Many thanks to our grandson, Capt. David Gavin Granger of the Royal Engineers, for reminding us to write these diary extracts and attempt to identify the battles in which Walter Hallam fought. David contacted us whilst he was visiting the Hooge area of France (just south of The Menin Road) whilst he was visiting that area with some of his men during early October, 2014. An image of David taken, at the above site at the time of his visit, is provided below. Margaret & Cyril Granger

David Hallam

Further information
German Offensives 1918 – Battles of the Lys Offensive: READ
Walter Hallam, his Roll of Honour record – READ