Rest periods out of the line
My father wrote his WW1 itinerary in my mother’s autograph book; I often wondered how accurate it was, given that it must have been from memory. I have finally found his regiment’s diary (3/1 London Regt RF, became 2/1 London but still referred to as 3/1, and often confused with 1/3) and found it reasonably accurate with one exception: when not in the trenches or on the move, he noted ‘rest’ against certain place names; I once saw a breakdown of soldiers’ time spent in the line, in support and resting, and it seems to accord with this. However, on reading the diary, the ‘rest’ periods usually consisted of a day’s rest, a bath and change of clothes, and then a week or two of working parties for the RE, mending roads, laying tramways etc. I had not realised until now that the RE were more often than not just the guiding hand, with the hard work done by the PBI, or sometimes the Cavalry, perplexed at finding themselves without a fighting role. Anyway, it hardly justifies the label ‘rest’. In order to get a more balanced view of the physical demands of war on the infantry, I shall in future be far more careful with the tag ‘rest’ and use ‘working party’ whenever in doubt!
by cyngast moderator
How great to have your father's itinerary! What a resource!
I believe that the army itself officially called these periods "Rest," and, yes, the men seldom got any real rest after the initial day or two. I've come across an occasional comment in diaries to the effect that the men of a "resting" infantry unit were worn out from a large number of nights as working parties, but were then expected to go right back into the line and carry out an assault!
RE units were relatively small, and they often ended up in a supervisory role, while the infantry or cavalry units supplied the manpower.
If you use the tag for "Resting" when the diary specifically states it, you should be okay. And by all means, use "Working party" when groups of men are involved in that kind of activity.
Thanks for sharing that information with us fisfiris. You must be really proud of your Father's WW1 itineray. What a marvelous record to have in your possession.