Animals were a crucial part of the war effort everywhere but sometimes some of them provide unintended, entertaining interludes.
May 1917 finds Earnest Kirkland-Laman near Arras. Not everything is going his way as this little episode shows. He was proceeding “across country and spotting a brace of partridge leisurely pecking up in a ploughed field, tried a shot with my revolver. They looked up and seeing that I looked harmless went on pecking. My pony wouldn’t stand quiet, although I had three shots but knew it would only be a streak of luck if I got one. They still went on eating! So dismounted quietly and not being able to tie up the horse held him lightly whilst I drew a careful lead. Bang! Off went my pistol – and my pony. And it took me half an hour in the wrong direction to catch him.”
A sports day was held on 11th May and evidently a good time was had by all. Unfortunately, Kirkland-Laman’s team came last and he lamented that “with a bit of luck in the ‘Gas’ race and Sgts Race when they were fouled, we should have won”. There was some compensation when his men won the “Best Transport turn out” and the “Blindfold drill”. However, not everything went to plan as problems with animals spoilt an exciting race. Lt. Col “Great Bomb Kelly” was in the lead when “his mule stopped opposite the spot he had been standing having his feed before the race – and they all stopped!” Better luck next time.
Although the beginning of May was quiet for Kirkland-Laman, the remainder of May 1917 was not, as action near Arras intensified once again and casualties increased. To understand more about the action near Arras at this time go to www.longlongtrail.co.uk/battles/battles-of-the-western-front-in-france-and-flanders/the-arras-offensive-1917-battle-of-arras
Our photograph shows Kirkand-Laman at various stages in his career from young cadet to mature soldier. He was a very dapper man even when dressed for sports as the photograph shows.