last I have something really worth while telling you. I suppose
you will have got my letter telling you of our arrival in France
and they we were near the firing line. Well, since then we have
moved up closer still and are in billets in a city in Flanders
about 2 miles behind the line.
have had two spells in the trenches each of 24 hours, The first
time I went in with about 25 men who were each put with a British
Tommy for instruction, and a British officer was detailed to
instruct me. The second night I had my platoon in as a unit.
I had a section of trench about 60 yards in length, 450 years
from the German lines. The trenches where we were are in good
shape the men being very comfortable in little dug outs made
of wood and buried either on the enemys side of the trench
or the other. The officers ones are a little better than
the mens, in some of them one can stand up. Sand bags are
used a great deal and to very good effect as it is easy to repair
trenches where they are used. The trench I was in was very well
protected by barb wire and ditches in front. There was not much
doing the days and nights I was in the line. The German snipers
are at work all the time but dont do much damage. The men
amuse themselves by shooting at things that occasionally appear
on top of the German trench. I was shooting at a brazier that
I saw on top of a trench when after a couple of shots a German
started to signal misses with a shovel. The only real danger
is the going in and out of the trenches as it is often a very
moonlight night and as in many cases the reliefs have to cross
a sky line. In our case we came across high ground but had no
mishap. The German reliefs apparently come in about the same
time as the British so each stops firing so as not to draw the
fire of the other. However, occasionally a machine gun sweeps
the rear of the trench and reliefs get caught and have to take
cover as fast as possible. The men we were with have been in
these trenches off and on for three months and are fed up with
the war in general.
seems a great strain on the nerves waiting and waiting for an
attack which never comes. Some of them have never seen a German
and there has not been an attack for months.
think this is, so to speak, another chapter in the book of training
and that we will move somewhere else soon.
taking my platoon for a bath this afternoon which they need badly,
including their officer.
am feeling fine and in good health. Drunkenness in my men is
the only thing that bothers me but I am getting rid of it now.
I havent got a man under 5 10 which is not
a great advantage in trench work.
told you I think that Bob was left at the base: poor fellow he
was very angry. Thank mother for the socks and Dora for the muffler.
I will writer as often as I can but it is hard to find the time
and the place.
rather funny incident happened to me. I was with a British officer
who took a piece of cake from a shelf in his dug out to offer
me some, when we found a bullet buried in it.
forgets the days of the month and the hours of the day on a job
like this. I will try to give you a really interesting letter
this time but as I am my own censor and also that of my platoon,
I have to be even more careful than if some one else were to
read my mail. Since I last wrote, we have been on the move a
great deal and have had some real excitement. On the 10th and
11th we took part as reserves, in probably the biggest engagement
the world has ever seen, as the artillery of the whole British
and French lines took part. In the early morning the whole line
of artillery opened fire. It was the most wonderful row I have
ever heard. It lasted for over an hour, then the machine guns
started and the rifle fire. You will see about it no doubt in
the papers. Before this my platoon had the pleasant job of supplying
a company in the trenches with food, ammunition, wood, sand-bags,
in fact everything including men. The Germans seem to have a
special grudge against these parties and throw their searchlights
and star shells on them. However my men are getting on to this
game finely and can get into a ditch or mud hole quicker than
most people. This was is not such a bad affair after all. With
a reasonable amount of luck and common sense one can come through
all right. The Germans seem to be good shots and are very sagacious.
They are full of tricks and one never knows whom to trust. I
was moving around in the dark the other night when a man came
up to me and said, Where are your headquarters? I
could not see his face, so I said, The same place as yesterday. The
man grunted and seemed angry; but I head the Captain's voice
in my ear saying Quite right. However he turned out
to be an artillery officer.
Germans shelled us pretty hard one day. They got the range of
billet No. 1 company were in and dropped a high explosive into
the room where we were sleeping a few hours before. Our second
in command was having a bath in the next room. You would have
laughed to see him hurry out *********** I have censored this
myself. We are quite comfortable and well. We have all we want
in the way of food and everything. I dont think in the
history of the world, troops have been so well looked after,
baths are ready for us after our spell in the trenches and medical
attendance is very easily got. Out hardest work is done at night
and sleep is sometimes hard to get.
and the much and wet are the only discomforts we have as yet,
but I think we are going to get it hard pretty soon. I am sending
you my sheet to keep for me as a souvenir from the Germans, and
also a tobacco leaf for Jef. I hope the letter arrives so as
not to scare you. We are such a small unit in this big affair
that it is really easier for you to get information than for
us; but I dont know, I think this affair will not last
have just had a fine meal of fresh eggs and fine French coffee
and milk. I have managed to get hold of the best batman (servant)
in the regiment, at least I think he is. He is as tough as they
make them and has no scruples at all but is as loyal and true
to me as steel - a regular Huckleberry Finn, but just the
man for me. I never want for food or anything. At the time I
ask him Where did you get this Flaxman? I get as
an answer, Dont ask no questions, sir. So I
dont. This is one of the fellows I have told you about.
He reformed a great deal when I started boxing in the company.
your letters dated 4th, 8th and 10th. They are very interesting
and cheery.. as you say, it is very hard for us to get news of
the war except from the paper which we get very seldom. The small
part we play is so insignificant that what we do seems nothing.
You will already have heard of the Neuve Chapelle affair. I have
heard many stories about it and many reasons well, I cannot
honorable express m own ideas on the affair, being my own censor.
We have just come out of the trenches and are having a few days rest.
It is not very exciting in the trenches, there is very little
firing and less shelling. The Germans seem more keep on sniping
than we are, and a good deal better at it. However, for all their
watchfulness, our Company came out without a scratch. My platoon
is getting quite foxy and the men are getting to
be old veterans. Keep you head low but be on the job when
you are wanted is my motto and keep you ammunition
until you see something to fire at. There is, in my opinion,
a great waste of ammunition by men firing at objects they cannot
see clearly. I have been out on patrols and got within as far
as I could judge 35 yards of the German trenches. I have heard
a sentry cough and spit: but I have not as yet seen a German
either dear of alive and I must say frankly that I bear them
no ill will and I think most of us are the same. If they hit
one of our men we consider it a good shot and perhaps curse them
a little but that is all. In places our trenches were within
200 yards of the enemy and both sides exchanged words.
de Kaiser! (British) sic: - (probably mistake for German)
on over Fritz! (British)
us Rule Britannia! (German) and expressions some of which
I cannot put on paper. Let it be sufficient that the seem to
have learnt some pretty nice slang from the Tommies.
is about the only excitement we have and does not give much more
of a thrill than shooting a rapid. It is not very dangerous unless
you meet a patrol from the enemy or make too much row and excite
the enemy, who might throw up some flares and spot you then
it is nose to the ground, regardless of mud, for to have a machine
gun turned on you is no tea party. Captain Darling the adjutant
was wounded the other day, but it is not serious, in fact he
is considered a lucky man as he gets a trip to London out of
it. As he was going from the trenches to Battalion headquarters
he got hit either by a stray shot or by a damn good shot. We
expect to get some real fighting soon. I have just censored over
one hundred letters, it is a very tiring job. Wilfred.
An RCM man by the name of Ince came to see me and told me a wild
story about a fellow who was in my class. It appeared that the
fellow whom Mr. Martin greatly despised as he was an awful fool
at Meths was ordered by the General of his Division to go through
the Germans lines at night and find out if the occupied a third
line of trenches which the British knew existed. He put on a
German coat and hat and did what he was asked to. He could not
speak German. It seems rather absurd. Such tales float around
here all the time. It is getting late and I am rather tire. Hope
you got the waterproof sheet I sent. Good souvenir, eh?