Out of the firing line and straight onto the football pitch in France

View from the Ulster Tower on Thiepval Ridge looking over the Ancre Valley towards Beaumont Hamel (trees on horizon). The lines held by 12th R. Irish Rifles in these diaries are on left of picture with no man's land running through trough the gully and trees with the German lines on right. Note the white chalk marks which denote where the German lines once were.
View from the Ulster Tower on Thiepval Ridge looking over the Ancre Valley towards Beaumont Hamel (trees on horizon). The lines held by 12th R. Irish Rifles in these diaries are on left of picture with no man's land running through trough the gully and trees with the German lines on right. Note the white chalk marks which denote where the German lines once were.

By the middle of March 2016, the citizen soldiers of the 12th Royal Irish Rifles were old hands at maintaining their trench lines in the Ancre Valley below the village of Thiepval.

But from March 8-11 the battalion was out of the front and enjoying a period of relative rest in the comforts of a camp near the the village of Hedauville. All good things have to come to an end and on March12, after the ‘usual services’, the battalion relieved the 9th Royal Irish. Fusiliers (who had mainly been recruited around Lurgan, Portadown and Armagh districts) in the left sector of the trenches in front of Auchonvillers. Relief complete at 9.30pm.

WILSON, Andrew, 571, Rifleman, 12th Royal Irish Rifles, was  KIA on the 18th March 1916.  He was aged 32 and was the son of Jane and the late Andrew, Prospect Place, Ballymena.  He is buried in Auchonvillers Military Cemetery, Somme and commemorated in 1st Ballymena Presbyterian Church.

WILSON, Andrew, 571, Rifleman, 12th Royal Irish Rifles, was KIA on the 18th March 1916. He was aged 32 and was the son of Jane and the late Andrew, Prospect Place, Ballymena. He is buried in Auchonvillers Military Cemetery, Somme and commemorated in 1st Ballymena Presbyterian Church.

March 13th Very quiet night. Only (a German) transport train heard in Beaumont Hamel. Quiet day. One man of ‘C’ coy killed by whiz-bang and one man injured by sniper. At 3pm our artillery cut the German wire. Working parties on Clonmel Avenue (trenches were often given street names) and communication trenches, also in front line. Two men wounded in ‘D’ coy by sniper while on a wiring party.

March 14th 4am Situation normal. Very quiet night. Very fine weather. 4pm Situation quite normal all day. The work was pushed on in the front line trenches and supports. Work continued well into the night.

March 15th Situation unchanged. About 3pm enemy put about 20 5.9 HE shells into our lines near Limerick Junction. No damage was done. Firing was more or less continuous on both sides throughout the day.

4pm Situation normal. Work proceeded with new dug outs for signallers and gunnery officers. Communication trench from Clonmel Avenue to 1st Avenue opened. Some firing in direction of Mesnil and Beaucourt, also Beaucourt during the night.

March 16th 4am Situation normal. During the day, work on 1st Avenue continued. Enemy MGs active against our aeroplanes. Wiring parties out along the whole front and wire repaired and strengthened in weak spots. Enemy active with whizz bangs (shrapnel shells) all afternoon. Rfn. J. Hogg D coy was hit last night.

March 17th 4am Situation quite normal. Wind SE. Misty morning. Had a good look around all the trenches from the ‘lid’. Men wore the shamrock presented by General Sir George Richardson KCB, GoC., UVF.

The day passed quietly, one man only being wounded by shrapnel. Work progressed throughout the night.

March 18th 4am Situation normal. No wind. Some aeroplane activity. 10am Enemy put five heavy HE shells into front line (left coy) and killed three men and wounded one. Otherwise day quiet and usual working parties out. Trench was blown in but is being cleared. 4pm Situation normal. Preparing for relief. 7pm Relief commenced. 10pm Marched into billets in Hedauville.

March 19th Usual services held.

March 20th Situation normal. Football match in afternoon between our transport and that of the YCV (14th Bn R. Ir Rif.). The match ended in a draw, one each. A mule race took place afterwards and ended in a win for one of our mules (against YCV). Good concert at night.

March 21st Situation normal. Football match in afternoon against 11th R Ir. Rifles ended in our favour by 3 to 1.

There was an officer’s Cob race afterwards which amused the men very much. ‘Dick’ won after an exciting finish.

March 22nd Situation unchanged. Weather fine.

March 23rd Situation unchanged. Football match in afternoon against 7th D. Guards and 13th Hussars.

Result was 4-0 for 12th R. Ir. Rifles after good match. Concert in evening. Very good. Heavy snow during the night.

March 24th Relief of 9th R Ir. Fus. Relief began at 6.30pm and complete at 8.45pm.

March 25th 4am Everything very quiet.