GWL 17th October 1917

Got a wire from you to-day.  According to the date on it it was sent off on the 9th.  Well, Auntie, I hope it is a good niece.  Will you allow me just a 1/100 share in Uncleship? Many people who have seen your ring are amazed at the beauty of the design of the seal! Just in case the other letter about it does not turn up I will seal this one with it too.  I am afraid it is rather too big for hand.  It is rather too big for the 3rd finger of mine, and too small for the second.  Your letter of the 2 Oct turned up to-day.  I am glad Arthur is home.  What is he going to do? Is Adam very much the heavy father or is he scared to death of the infant? I should be.”

Sinking of “Strongbow” and “Mary Rose”.

Between the 15th and 18th of October the Action of Nyangao also known as the Battle of Mahiwa took place in the East African campaign.  A British Empire Force of 4,700 men made up of Nigerians and South Africans under the command of Jacob van Diventer attacked a German force of 1,500 under the command of von Lettow-Vorbeck.  It was an extremely bloody engagement with both sides sustaining 30-50% casualties.  The 160 men of the 25th Royal Fusiliers attached to the force were reduced to 50 men.  German counter-attacks forced an Allied retreat.  However the German force was so debilitated by the action that von Lettow-Vorbeck decided to withdraw from German East Africa.

battle of Mahiwa

{next post 20th October}

GWL 15th October 1917

We had a flood yesterday – one of my sergeants was drowned trying to get across a stream that normally has one inch of water in it.  There were about 10 feet in it then at its worst.

I have found an old ring.  Rather interesting.  I found it up in the hills.  I think it is gold but am not sure.  This letter will be sealed with it.  What the device is I cannot make out.  It looks as though it might be a man with a sword in his right hand and a shield seen edgeways in his left.  The three spots being apparently his head.  I am almost certain it is old.  No modern man would put such a queer crest on his ring.

I am awfully distressed about my sergeant.  Unfortunately his body has not yet been found.  But I am afraid he is drowned all right.

“The ring is a present to you, when I can get a reasonable chance to get it home safely.  That is to say if it is any good.”

This period saw considerable naval action in the North Sea and the Baltic.  British destroyers “Strongbow” and “Mary Rose” were sunk in the North Sea east of Lerwick while escorting a convoy bound for Norway with much loss of life.  German forces completed the capture of the Baltic Islands by the 20th.

[next post 17th October]

GWL 13th October 1917

My mad subaltern, bless his little heart is going to-morrow, thank God.  The mails are all anyhow now.  To-day a letter of yours came dated 17 Sept and the next one to it is that of the 28th.  Everybody here is receiving irate letters from home asking why they don’t write.  It is very distressing……..  The whole business of this lad of mine sickens me.  Here he is gallivanting about with this lady for 7 or 8 months and within a month of her going he goes potty.  I have told him that if he does not come back to the minute, I will seek him out and destroy him.”

Bullying in the workplace, I think![Ed]

On the 12th the First Battle of Passchendale took place.  This was an attempt by the Allies to build on earlier successes and gain ground on the Passcendale Ridge.  Inaccurate intelligence had suggested that German morale was falling and it all also misplaced the position of the remain lines.  Further continuous heavy rain combined with shell-destroyed drainage channels meant that the ground returned to being a quagmire.  The spearhead of the Allied attack was made by ANZAC forces.  The creeping barrage was weak and much of the barbed wire remained uncut.  The German counter-offensive retook any limited Allied gains and the offensive was called.  The New Zealanders in particular suffered heavy casualties with 2,735 killed or wounded, later described as the costliest day of casualties in New Zealand history.

300px-Morning_a_Passchendaele._Frank_Hurley

Morning after the First Battle of Passchendale

[next post 15th October]

GWL 8th October 1917

The leathery mosquito is very active.  He striketh many.  I hope “Chinese Characteristics” have got sunk, as they have not arrived yet.  Did a very nice shoot to-day, everything considered.  A small cat has been absent for a whole day.  I hope nothing evil has happened to the wee beastie.  It was going to be the best of the lot.  The jackdaws have come back again, the dogs chase them all day.  It does the dogs a lot of good & the jackdaws no harm.  That horse has not got clipped yet.  It rained to-day and you cannot do them wet.  The Quarter Master Sergt’s turkey trot was fruitless.  He also drew blank in the pig line.  Last night the Army had a sing-song.  The usual thing.  I left early.  It was raining hard and the tent was full of smoke and steam.”

On the 5th and 7th Peru and Uruguay respectively severed diplomatic relations with Germany.  On the 9th the Battle of Poelcapelle, the next phase in the Third Battle of Ypres, took place.  The gains of the recent weeks by the Allies came to a halt due to deteriorating ground conditions from return of heavy rain from the beginning of October and stern resistance and counter-attacking from German forces.

800px-Ypres1917-Poelcappelle-Setup+Objectives

300px-YpernPoelcapelle1918

[next post 13th October]

 

GWL 6th October 1917

There is absolutely nothing to write about.  The “archies” give us rather a bad time when they shoot.  Another shell landed in the middle of the square this morning and a piece of shrapnel came through the orderly room door!  Much nearer to us than they ever are to the Boche.

To-day the sun was quite hot again.  To-morrow there is going to be a great turkey hunt.  The Quarter Master is going off with many mules to try an buy some;  likewise a pig or two.  Our hens, have quite refused duty.  We have not heard from them at all for the last week.  On Tuesday I am going to take a little motor drive into the country.  I have just had a whole heap of guns hove at my head that want a lot doing to them before they will be much good; so the next day or two will probably be a kind of carnival of paraffin & rags.”

[next post 8th October]

GWL 4th October 1917

I honestly think I am earning my pay (and allowances) these days.  To-day I drew a heavy draught horse, – vice “Roger” who fell in the water tank, – who looks like a “damned grey ‘ound” – a most extraordinary beast.  We tried to clip him this morning and met with a severe rebuff.  To-morrow we will put him on his back and pull out each hair one by one just to show our independence.  Don’t you think that is right, most wise and just judge?  “Why for” should a low and licentious quadruped waste out time — If there is any time to be wasted, and there is not, (We with a large W) will waste it ourselves.  To-day I caught a flea, tried to clip a horse & cleaned two D.P.Lewis guns.  If that is not worth £1.4.0. — Lord, it is 11 P.M.

“One of these days, when I am feeling very strong, I will write out all the times I thought I was going on leave & what prevented it.”

On this day the Battle of Broodseinde, the next phase in the Third Battle of Ypres took place.  A combined force of British and ANZAC forces advanced in places up to 1 mile using “bite and hold” tactics.  Morale within the German 4th Army was severely dented.

{next post 6th October}

GWL 1st October 1917

You may not recognise it but the above bird represents a pheasant [there was a drawing of a bird at the head of the original letter]  The very oldest amongst us, who can remember the days of peace, bore our grandchildren with stones of the grand days we used to have pursuing this lovely biped.  Yesterday I took horse and trekked many miles to see Nora Tomlinson, aforementioned.  It was hot, the way was more than long, it was damnably distant, and when I got there the good woman was on duty.  So in a rash moment promising to come again soon I departed without even a drink.  The mosquito has suddenly become a nuisance; or better rather more of a nuisance than usual.

The second batch of cats is coming on finely.  We now lend cats to establishments that have mice.  “Very sorry, madam, but our cats are all out this morning; can we put you on the waiting list?””

On 30th September the Battalion won the Divisional Wiring Competition completing the task in 16 1/2 minutes, their Personal Best by 1 1/2 minutes!

{next post 4th October}

The First World War seen through the letters of George Power