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Lieutenant Arthur L. Bishop, The Manchester Regiment

Lieutenant Arthur L. Bishop, The Manchester Regiment

2 December 1914

Here we are again in the billets, but this time we were not so lucky and they are not as comfortable as some we have had.
I got a letter from Dad and one from R.W.L. on Sunday in the trenches and was glad to hear that all are well with you.
Everything is much the same here as usual we are sitting tight until something happens in the East or else something that will happen at ----- in a few days as we heart from the rumour that the Germans are concentrating there.

Mr. Hughes has been awfully decent. He has sent me cigarettes and Punch, Graphic, Toronto papers, a Woolsey cap and a pair of galoshes. It was quite like Christmas last night as we all got a big mail, and had a pair of chickens for dinner which we had bagged. The desolation of this country is awful. Crowded with refugees. In one farm I tumbled into there were 10 babies sleeping along the wall and three women huddled over the fire. They had come from way down the line and you never saw such filthy people. But we cannot help pity them. All the houses here are blown to bits as it was at one time held by the Germans and were shelled out by out people. I have to censor all my platoon’s letters and some are very funny.

We have had several casualties lately.

I am well and having a fine time enjoying every minute of it. The weather has been fine lately. All the snow has gone but it is very muddy. The King with the P of W Poincare and a swarm of generals review the troops yesterday at --, and we were all very much bucked up to see him.

We go into the trenches tomorrow night so will write again after we come out.

4 December 1914

This is just a short note so please excuse but I your Mother keeps you well posted as to my whereabouts and doings, if you are not at home. My idea in writing is to advise you in a few things which will be useful if you are coming over and I only hope it will catch you before leaving, if you have not already left. As the winter is on lots of warm clothing is invaluable, also as there is as much rain as snow, waterproof things are needed.

We live in billets when not in trenches and so far have always had our valises to sleep on. Don’t trust these beds as they are all lousy and the Gs slept in them. The billets are very dirty as a rule as there is a very poor section of …

I carry a fleece lined Burberry which is waterproof warm and light, but you on your horse will carry a great coat. Do not take H. warm. They are no protection for your legs in the trenches. Carry a pack on your back. One of the men's converted is what we have. In it carry a regulation blanket, gloves, muffler, Woolsey helmet, one pair socks, and waterproof sheet regulations. In your haversack, flask, iron rations, medicine case, scissors, field dressing, maps, combination knife, fork, spoon, razor, brush, soap, comb, tooth brush, compass. I have haversack, glasses, water bottle fitted with snaffles to hook on s. Broms [Sam Brown belts]. A leather revolver-lanyard. The cord ones are no good. Mine has gone already. In your valise, fleabag, I suit service dress, 1 extra pair puttees, 3 pr heavy socks, ? dozen large hdcks.[handkerchiefs], 1 pair pajamas invaluable when you can (?) get a sleep, 1 pair slippers, 1 cholera belt, change of underwear and khaki shirt.

A sword is a damn nuisance in the trenches. A pair of waterproof jack books would be excellent for you but useless to us. These knitted wolsey helmets are no good being too thin, a Jaeger is the only thing. Gloves with long wrists and no fingers are fine. The whole idea is to carry on you as much warm clothing as possible without killing yourself on the long marches.

I have sent to R.W.L. for a pair of larrigans as they will be the ideal thing for trenches.

Of course if you don’t come out till the spring all your warm clothes will be a wash out but whatever you do take a waterproof sheet and a change of socks. They are issuing to us fur lined British warms which we are looking forward to immensely. A cavalry canteen is a good live. Be sure to have a flask of brandy, not a glass one for preference. On these cold nights in the trenches and being soaking wet a nip of rum is a god send. Also carry in your valise a tine of waterproof boot oil.

All these things I can recommend as it is only by experience that I have found them out. An ordinary wolsey valise of strong canvas is much better than a tent valise such as I have, because when you do see your valise it is always in billets, and the country is so thickly populated that you are always sure of a roof or ? roof as nearly all the houses have been shelled. Carry about £5 with you and get it exchanged for five frank notes here. A writing case, small, is an ideal thing also a fountain pen with a small steel ink pot, which doesn’t leak. A good luminous watch is fine but in the trenches now with so much mud practically useless. We live in mud and are never clean. We spruced up a gine [?] yesterday when H.M. came along.

Don’t forget to let me know when you get out here, if I should be alive by that time. I only wish we could get moving, and get the brutes on the run. Their trenches now are only 40x from ours and they have a gramophone. I have had several very narrow shaves, but a miss is as good as a mile every time and we don’t worry.

The trouble is to get food and H2O up to the trenches. Their beastly machine guns 12 per bttn. [battalion] Have every road, trench entrance, tree and likely spot continually under fire, so you can imagine the fun changing reliefs in the trenches. Our artillery is excellent, also RFC Last Monday we were shelled all day, but not effect. We have lost about 150 men and officers. The snipers are the devil, apparently civilians who are given a bounty for each man and officers particularly. When moving at night behind our own lines we always carry a cocked revolver. Write soon and tell all the news. (How is Hazel bank getting along?)

7 December 1914

Tonight brought … letter and one also from ... in which was a glowing account of the prowess of the old ‘oss at the rural fall fairs, and Uncle ... Great excitement and winning box of cigars.

Yesterday we came out of the trenches in a pouring rain, heavy wind and a cold noreast gale. The mud was knee deep. I never believed there was such mud and really I am not exaggerating when I say it was knee deep. You can imagine the confusion and time in taking over trenches from another battalion. The … relieved us and took an awful time as they had lost ? of their men and we carry three days rations so that each man carries besides his 80 lbs equipment, sacks of coke, coal, rum jars filled with water, rum kindling wood, and sacks of biscuits, bully beef, etc. slung all over his equipment. Well when I was leading my platoon out and three platoons behind we came to two platoons of the W. Yorks in a narrow communication trench 2’ wide, and all the time a machine gun was playing around us. There was nothing to do but get out on top and let them past. For a while it was a bit exciting but we got out alright but very late, and we got to the billets and simply lay on the floor and slept like logs.

As we were having breakfast yesterday in a trench in rear of the fire trenches Capt. Wordsworth was shot. He was standing beside me and dropped immediately. He was one of our best officers and loved throughout the battalion. This makes two of our company gone, and the two best. There is only one sub and myself left in the company from the original officers that came out, but of course we are filled up with other officers in their places. I had two of my men shot on Sunday I think it was.

Direct hits direct through the loophole of the iron plates. Some of the Huns are excellent shots, and extraordinarily persistent in sniping. Of course a man hit in the trenches now has no chance whatever as the hits are all in the head. I am getting quite proficient in banding and can stand almost anything I think now.

We buried poor Wordsworth today. It was very remarkable but one of my men hit on Sunday is still alive and doing well. The bullet cauterizes as it rips through so the doctor says. On Saturday nigh the Huns attacked and caught one of our men in a listening sap well in front of the trenches. Of course he had not a chance. Our machine guns cleaned up for a few of them though. Last night the … bde. On our right had a show. The Huns use a lot of star shell and illuminating balls. We do not much, but use rifle and hand grenades, as in our line we are only 50 yards from them and just a nice heave takes one right into their trenches.

These billets are very good. There is a large open fireplace which we appreciate extremely. We do ourselves awfully well when possible paying ridiculous prices for luxuries such as bread, butter, milk, etc., but it certainly pays, because if one is not continually fit this life would be awful. I never felt so well in my life and enjoy it immensely although sitting in trenches is a weary game. We amuse ourselves during the day in spotting shots for one another with field glasses and knocking down the Huns iron loopholes with occasionally bull’s eye in the hole at 100x it is really only a mug that would miss it.

I got uncle … letter on Sunday. It was dated 17 Nov. Believe me you can do more in Canada by staying at home and make it possible for the young chaps to enlist than by coming over here. It is a young chaps’ game entirely, and by the time we get them ‘on the run which will be soon only the fittest will be able to stick it and we are hoping then to lose all our reservists who are awfully soft compared to the rest of the regulars. … arrived today.

Our casualties have been very few considering what we have gone through, but we have lost a lot by front bite and sore feet, they have gone to the base and many were cases for amputation, so you can imagine how cold it has been. Out company have been issued with long haired fur capes for the winter, but as yet nothing has come for officers.

We are all looking forward to a hot bath which we get at the next billet and a complete change of under clothing for the men. About 80% of them have the ‘itch’ and lodgers, a thing which is bound to happen but as yet I have not been visited.

My servant religiously washes my things when the chance offers.

I don’t know where we shall be for Christmas but I hope in billets somewhere.

I saw Colonel Paley’s name in the casualty list. He was certainly a very fine chap. I believe the Canadians are out here now, but where I could not say.

On Monday we had a rather nice fireworks display. A farm on the edge of which our trenches are was shelled with high explosive. It was remarkable shooting. Every shell hit either the farm or some of the buildings. It was only 25x in rear of us but the high back parapet prevents any sayaktues [obscure], The noise and smoke of their H. H. shell is terrific.

Will write again after we come out of the trenches., Arthur.

11 December 1914

Your letter of November 11th arrived last night and to date I have received all your letters and the ones with the clippings. We have been in the trenches for the last two days and are being relieved tonight, so we will have a good sleep in the billets unless something happens. On the 13th all the men are going to have a hot bath and a fresh suit of underclothing, socks, etc. it is certainly needed. In the day time when there is not much going the men take off their shirts and go big game hunting, and always get quite a bag. It is really very funny to watch them and the conversation during the process is extremely educational to say the least.

The weather has been wet lately so there is considerable mud. Coming in the trenches the other night it was actually knee deep. One gets perfectly filthy, but also very used to it. Am sure you would not own me if you saw the state I get in sometimes. I got a letter from Aunt … last night also, which was very much appreciated. The news of the box is extremely interesting and should be here about Xmas time. I wrote Leonard advising him in a few things which we have all found the most useful, as one coming on a show like this is very liable to take a few unnecessaries and wish after he had never seen them. By the time you receive this you will have been in … for Xmas, so you must tell me all the news and what happened there. I suppose the … were in and the usual fun at night with the lame, halt and blind and children of the neighborhood. In billets the time goes too quickly but in the trenches is very monotonous, but I don’t mind it a bit. Of course everyone is anxious for the time when we get moving, but it will be very hard when it does come, as the winter is not an ideal time for such a move. The officers are getting 5 to 10 days leave now, but our turn will not come (I don’t think) till January or February. It will be short but very sweet I can assure you. You can send letters to the above address and they will get here much quicker than by going to Chance & Hunt, put ‘via London’ on though. We all have fur capes now which are fine and warm, as yet officers fur coats have not come, so we use the men’s and look like Teddy Bears with long hair. Aug dolly [?] tells me of all the young blood joining the Army. I can’t imagine that B… will be very gay this winter. What a change from last, eh?

We had a fireworks display last time we were here the Huns shelled a farm about 50x in rear of our position, and it was fine to watch and very excellent shooting, as everyone was a direct hit. However they did us no damage. Mr. Hughes is very decent. Sending all the illustrated papers with every mail as well as writing paper at odd times. I have not heard any news of the RMC chaps so can tell you nothing of … You can tell me how he is getting on and where he is. I would ask my girl friends to send things for my men but I know they will all be working for the Canadian boys, so will not bother.

Will look for a letter soon. Tell the children to write and don’t forget you can write direct with the address above. Arthur.

13 December. 1914

Today is Sunday and we have celebrated accordingly, first by having kippers, ham and eggs for breakfast and by having a bath.

The men were marched to a factory, in which were some big vats. Here they had a hot bath and were issued with a clean complete suit of underwear. Considering as the men hadn’t had a bath since they left Malta, and each had a good supply of ‘cut little strangers’, it was very welcome.

Everything hasn’t been exactly all that could be desired. Coming from the trenches the other night in the rain was one continual goulash as … would say.

We have fur caps and they look like this. Notice, we look very happy.

I had a letter from … and he said the box would come PDQ once he got hold of it.

Thanks awfully for the box it will be most welcome. We are promised some 300 lbs of plum pudding to the company which means the same number of double barreled, 60 HO tume aches [?] so we have something to look forward to. Some it has just blown in with this mail.

There is very little news to tell you except that we are all well and progressing very favorably. Everyone is keen on the leave which is coming either in January or February if we don’t get on the move go before then.

… said you had mentioned the Larrigans in your letter. I think they will be most useful in this mud. The trouble with boots is they get wet and when cold are no fun, but the Larrigans with several socks will obviate all this. Arthur.

21 December 1914

Your letter of November 20 arrived here today with a letter from … who is also very keen to get into his job. I believe he took an Imperial commission. He says … and myself are the only ones out here.

Things have been quite exciting around here lately. We are on the ‘Qui Vive’ all the time, that is all I can tell you I am afraid.

The box hasn’t arrived yet, but is eagerly expected. … sent me a dozen handkerchiefs and a pair of hair clippers, exactly what was wanted as we are regular Rib Van’s at present. He is too good he sends all the latest papers and amusing stories from American papers. Once he sent several Toronto papers. We get daily papers from England sent as presents to the troops, so we get in touch with what is going on outside of our little sphere of assassinations, as that is all we have been doing up to a week ago.

There was an enormous parcel mail yesterday. Last night we had chicken, mince pie, and plum pudding, and vast hordes of figs, dates, etc., so that when our daily bully beef and biscuits came in they were promptly heaved out with ‘accelerated motion’ as …. would say.

I’m a bit leary now whether those larrigans will not be too big and give me sore feet. I hope the second pair are a bit smaller. Electric pocket torches are invaluable to us as we use them in the dugouts, and at night, we are issued with candles though, which are very useful. We had a double time in trenches this last time and a day less in billets.

The Home Guard must be quite a corps. We are far away from the division where Gen… is, so I’m afraid I won’t be able to see him.

We have just gorged ourselves again and hear that there is another mail in. It is all very nice when we are in billets.

As yet I haven’t seen or heard anything of the Canadians. I’m sure you would be awfully glad to know anything about them but I’m afraid I can’t oblige.

The English people are awfully good in sending the Tommies cigarettes and chocolates, and woolen things, all of which are most welcome. I suppose with you everything is going along as usual.

I had to bury one of my men the other night just off the trench, a Zeppelin was over us for two days, but too far back for our airman to tackle. One of theirs and ours had a dust up just above us yesterday but the Taube got away although we had the legs on him. Excuse the awful scrawl, but am in terrific hurry, and am trying to make this worth reading as it seems a waste for it to travel all the way across and be all piffle. The Huns are excellent shots. They smash our periscopes every time we stick them up, but who couldn’t at 50x? Arthur.

29 December 1914

I Didn’t write on Christmas day as I was expecting your parcel to arrive, but as yet they haven’t turned up. Mr. Hughes wrote me that he was sending the watch. Thanks awfully I’m sure. I will serve its purpose when it comes. I wish those larrigans were here now. It rained all yesterday and last night, so the trenches are 2 feet deep in mud, also several springs have come up and it is waist deep in places. Also the parapet has fallen down and the dug-outs caved in. You can’t imagine what it is like and cold too. The men just have an awful time. We, the officers, manage to get a little sleep sitting in a puddle with a waterproof sheet over one’s head. We are very cheery nevertheless. I am exceedingly gay because I have taken over the machine guns of the battalion, and am M.G. ]machine gun] officer. I have a battery of 4 guns and a horse to ride. It will be grand when we get on the move. The nice part also is I am absolutely responsible to no one but myself and live at the H.Q. mess so when we care in billets it is very nice. I have tot to swat M. gunnery life blazes though for a time.

The cigarettes for the men will be appreciated.

We had a very fine Christmas, an enormous spread but oh how mad I was on the night of the 24th. I had a bed, it was my turn, the 3rd time since being over here. I hadn’t been in bed 2 hours when we were turned out in a hurry to reinforce. A deserter (Hun) had said that they were to attack in force at dawn. He was an orderly and said he had seen the order and was fed up. We got back at 8 a.m. and came here the same night. I only hope the enemy’s trenches are as bad as ours. We hear authoritative reports of their suiciding and any amount wanting to desert. There are a great number of bodies in front of us now.

Last night I was pulled out of my dugout, left gun out of action. They (Huns) had put a bullet through barrel casing and let all the water out, so the crew took it down, shoved in a wooden plug, plastered it with clay, and in two minutes pat, pat, pat, as merrily as ever.

A few yards in rear of our trench the RHA have a small mortar the same as we saw in Bannerman’s in N.Y. for they plum pudding bombs to the Huns. We call it ‘Lobbing Lucy’ as you can see the ‘puddings’ go.

There is another rumor of leave in January. I hope it is true. I think we could do with three days rest in London. I got a cable of Xmas greetings from home yesterday, also 12 letters from Canada on Christmas day, which were very welcome. Arthur

31 December 1914

In billets again. Watch and cigarettes arrived. The first is excellent. Thanks awfully. The Germans will be able to know the time in the trenches when it chimes, it is so good.

Several deserters of theirs wandered in to our lines absolutely fed up.

The programme of the ‘Magistrate’ is very good.

Official news of 6 days leave just came, sometime in January, but no exact date. Of course though we shall be sorry to take it(?) ALB

4 January 1915

This morning brought news of the parcels from Mr. Hughes with your letter also, and a list of the contents. My but you people have sent enough stuff to outfit an orphan asylum at Xmas time. Many thanks. I will give a great deal of it to the machine gunners. I am sitting in my dugout writing this, dodging raindrops as the roof is leaking and has been for days. The enemy have changed their dispositions a bit. We now have Prussians in front of us and they are dirty sods to be sure. Yesterday several of them amused themselves shooting at our dead which are out n front, after the other night’s affair, and there are quite a few. I turned my right M.G. on them and they soon cut it out. Aren’t they up to all the cad’s tricks though?

Everyone is fed up with this trench game. Night before last and yesterday our artillery literally ‘pasted’ them with H.E. [high explosive]. By Jove, I never saw such shooting, dozens just on their part and so they are busy, what is left, in digging today. The wind was wrong though the fumes nearly suffocated us.

We heave bombs at one another, made of jam pot tins filled with nails, bolt and such toilet articles, but are the very develop

I got a card from … yesterday. The 3rd Div is away south of us I am told, so I won’t be able to see Gen. … Arthur.
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