Category Archives: WW1Letters

GWL 11th June 1915

Our own anniversary was very wet here.  Although quite cool we had a thunderstorm and it rained nearly all day.  Much draining going on to-do to get rid of the water.  All your letters have come up to the 7th and this morning a parcel with socks, jam and handkerchiefs.

We are collecting animals of various kinds here.  Head Quarters have two dogs and a kitten.  We have a very small white puppy, who wears a red cross band round his tummy, the cross coming in the middle of his back, and looks very smart.  The last day or two I have had a slight internal upset, nothing much; due to change in weather I think.  Quite all right now.

We organise spy hunts as a form of recreation here.  The men frightfully keen on it.  Anybody found in our lines not wearing our uniform and badges is hauled before yours truly.  The bag yesterday was very varied, we got Vicary’s young brother; two R.E. majors and a captain, but so far no real winner though we have hopes.  It adds zest to life.  I am longing for the day when we bag some bally budding poppy from the Divisional Staff; We still pursue our agricultural labours – I have a couple of old men in the company who in civil life lay drains.  They are coming in very handy in the wet weather.  I have also a lady’s cutter if you want any clothes.  He is Witt’s servant.  Caught a flea last night and killed it after a stern encounter.”

{next post 13th June}

GWL 9th June 1915

Yesterday morning was like a furnace and in the afternoon we had a monstrous thunderstorm.   From now on I suppose I must be prepared to be greeted as of old when I look out of my front door.  My new subaltern has arrived, quite a nice lad, older than myself I think with rather a rubicund countenance but pleasant withal.

Fritz did a remarkable thing last night.  He exploded a mine under his own trench.  How the deuce he did it I cannot think.  Suddently there was a big explosion in Fritz’s trench and his supports apparently thinking the trench had been taken started firing into it and bombing.  Shrieks of laughter from T. Atkins Esq. – There is a large hole in his parapet, which he has not been able to mend as we keep a gun on it all night.

In addition to the man who kicks and waves a flag Otto now has a lady in a dark blue blouse and skirt and a white straw hat, standing up on the parapet.  She has not shown any signs of life yet.  Yesterday was rather remarkable altogether.  Fritz was most irregular.  He shelled at 7PM instead of 4.15PM and we had no evening machine gun.  It is quite sad when an otherwise pleasant opponent breaks loose like that.  We shall have to reconsider all our programme of working parties – Damn – The company writes too many letters, it evidently wants more work! Must stop now.”

{next post 11th June}

GWL 7th June 1915

A lovely parcel has arrived with your cake in it, which we are eating now and it is very good indeed.  All your letters have come up to the 4th June.  I hope you had a good day on the river.

Fritz to-day is in a destructive mood and has been busy knocking down houses all afternoon.  Agreat deal of noise and smoke, but not as yet very much material damage.  I see poor old Hooge is still the scene of much strife.  Jolly good thing we are out of that spot.  Not at all healthy.  It was such a pretty place even when ruined, & people who saw it in October say it was quite lovely.  I wonder who has got the mahogany clock and pink shaded lamp now.

I still want socks.  I really do, and if you will knit them for me I shall like them all the better.  “Forest Folk” is a nice book just finished; now I am reading “Simpkins Plot”.  It is most amusing.

On again all last night; considerable amount of gardening and general farming being done.  We seem to have been here a long time, but it does not look as though we should get out yet a while.  Oh! I had a lovely bath to-day.  The headquarters have all the modern conveniences and I trotted in and engaged the bath-room this afternoon.  Praying with some success that Fritz would not turn on any “crumps” during the operation – so clean once again – shooting bad and a blank day in the home covers.”

michelin_hooge

Hooge saw intense fighting through the winter of 1914 through the summer of 1915.  The village was totally destroyed and one of the largest mines was detonated by the British in July 1915 creating the Hooge Crater which remains a land mark in the Ypres Salient.

{next post 9th June}

GWL 5th June 1915

Another lovely day; your letters up to the 2nd June have all come.  The Brigade Staff has gone down with measles with wonderful unanimity.  Any chance of a stray measle for master, I wonder.  I think I should look rather nice in red spots.   The doctor has just been in – Quite mad! – He wanders round most of the day picking up odds & ends for his dressing station.  24 railway rails has been his bag so far to-day.

This place has the reputation of being an easy one, but there is precious little sleep for the officer man.  There are so few of us and such a lot of jobs to be done.  I have not been to bed for three nights now, nor have my subalterns.  The regiment on our right yesterday dug up a trench mortar in their zeal and roused Fritz from his afternoon siesta with it.  Fritz awoke in wrath and for about two hours there was quite a little fray with mortars and grenades.”

Periodic epidemics of infectious diseases including measles were not uncommon and could prove fatal.  Quite what the doctor did with 24 railway rails one can only guess!

{next post 7th June}

GWL 3rd June 1915

Just cut my finger, so be not alarmed at any marks of “blug”.  Fritz has been most entertaining to-day.  He has made a dummy which moves its arms and legs and waves a small flag.  We pot at it and it kicks.  He still flies kites and hoists flags and is a s regular as ever in his shelling and evening machine gun.

Just a few spots of rain this afternoon.  A little would not be a bad thing as there is a good del of dust about just now.  Did a little hay-making last night – Fritz got rather worried, wondering what was up and gave us a Brocks Benefit – very fine –

Have got all your letters up to the 31st.  I do so enjoy them, you cannot think how much.

One of my subalterns is an old Rugbeian, who left about two terms after I went to Rugby – an awfully nice fellow, who has done a good many different things in the business line including a little company promoting as far as I can make out.

From the papers there seems to be a push going on at Ypres – We always said that as soon as we had come back from that front line they would have to retake it all again.”

Brocks Benefits were free firework displays put on by Brocks Fireworks Ltd at Crystal Palace.  Elsewhere on the Eastern Front Przemyl was retaken by Austro-German forces.

{next post 5th June}

GWL 30th May 1915

Another lovely day.  Yesterday we went up by motor bus to have a “look see” at the trenches.  Very nice indeed and at present very quiet.  Let us hope they will remain so.  A man can ride a bicycle right into the trenches so that gives you a pretty good idea of how different they are from the others.  What a blessing it would be to get a really quiet piece for a change.  I do hope it will remain thus –

“Basdell is back again quite fit & will come in useful.The country round here is lovely.  Very flat, but plenty of green fields and trees.  One very fine orchard should produce some excellent cherries in due time.  The most remarkable thing is that all the civilians are living in the town, which is hardly damaged at all.

Your letters up to & including the 27th have arrived.  That little bit of leave was the best ever, wasn’t it.”

This gives an indication of the marked difference in the effects of the war across a relatively short distance.

Elsewhere: Affair of Sphinxhaven (Lake Nyassa).  British command of the lake secured.  A truly world war.

{next post 31st May}

GWL 19th May 1915

Well here we are back just a very little bit from our beast of a place.  Very weary in every way and feeling that of all things in the world a week’s leave is what we would like best, but apparently it is not to be.

About 3.30 this morning I was standing on  certain level crossing checking troops as they marched past and behold Clarence Gardner, who says that he has heard that we are to get at least three days leave – so all the world, in spite of a 12 mile ride in a very drizzly drizzle, seemed very gay, but, alas, the divisional General this morning dashed all our hopes to the ground and even suggested that we should be back in our wretched spot in three days.  This after the men have been in trenches continuously since May 4th.  As Mr Eye-witness has had it all in the papers I think there can be no harm in my adding my little bit.  The trouble really started when we came back in the early morning of May 4th.  Otto never found out we had gone until about two ours after it had taken place, but he did not waste much time when he knew.  From then on there was continuous heavy shelling of all our line – though no infantry attack until the 9th.  All the same the Brigade on our left had to come back and we were forced to leave our little home in the chateau one morning in a great hurry, as Otto was looking into the front door about 400 yards away.  So we all packed up and went into a new land, not so comfortable but having the advantage of a more or less undisturbed entrance and exit.  Then on the 9th the fighting began.  My poor regiment had an awful time.  They were putting shells into the trenches at an awful rate and we had to leave a salient piece that was the worst.  The Germans got into the trench before we could get back when the shelling ceased, and then Conner apparently went up to see what was happening and thinking the trench was held by us walked in and has never been seen since.  That is the story as I heard it.  Whether anybody saw him taken away a prisoner I don’t know, but I rather think not.  There is one thing to be thankful for, we killed an awful lot of huns.  The fighting went on for four days and then things gradually got quieter.  I see the 28th had a knock on the same day as we had.  Vicary and I are the only ones left here of the regiment who have never left France or Belgium since we came out five months ago to-day.” 

This is Georges version of the Battle of Frezenburg Ridge [see May 12th].  Apparently Conner was captured according to annotation of letter received by Marion.

{next post 27th May}

GWL 15th May 1915

A much quieter day.  Let us hope things are settling down here after a thorough shake-up.  My poor regiment; it has done splendidly.  The Brigade has had telegrams from Joffre and sundry big wigs, but what we want more than millions of telegrams is a rest.  Get somewhere where we cannot hear a gun and where a bath is not completely non-existent.

Your letters have all come up to the 10th.  Also the parcel with the ginger and creme de menthe.  Thank you all so much.  It has been raining rather a lot the last two days, but the sun has come out again a bit this evening, which makes things brighter.

The Lusitania incident is pretty bad.  How this war has brought out the utter impotence of America in European politics.  It is rather pathetic in a way, considering the manner in which Americans are won’t to speak of the greatness and power of their country.  The truth is that they are quite powerless and Germany knows it.

And how is your cooking?  I am not much of a hand at it myself.  The loathely buttered egg is about all I can manage with any prospect of success.  My servant is not bad though.  There is a beastly little fly that is becoming rather a nuisance now.  He bites and looks like a sandfly, but the bite does not irritate much.  I must stop now.”

The RMS Lusitania, a Cunard liner, was sunk by “U-20” on May 7th off the coast of Southern Ireland with the loss of almost 1200 lives.  George’s disdain for the Americans was a widely held view of the time and the initial American reaction to the sinking was unremarkable.  Shells which failed to explode at the Front were known as Wilsons after President Woodrow Wilson.  However, public opinion in the US started to turn against Germany culminating in American entry into the War in April 1917.

Torpedoed_Lusitania_diagram

{next post 19th May}