GWL 29th March 1915

I did not write yesterday, it seemed rather a full day.  There seemed to be rather a lot of things to do.  We are still in our little wood and as it has frozen for the last few days the place is drying up beautifully.  Last night we had a real sleep.  The first for a good many days – very sleepy.  This evening we are having a joint Battalion sing song with the Royal Scots and a big fire.  We hope it won’t be interrupted by Fritz from the air.  He has been rather active in that element for the last few days.  They say we bagged two, further back.  three days ago.  I did so love the books you sent….. So you have been seeing Arthur.  I am glad he was looking well.  I should like to have had a look at the old thing.  Your letters of the 25th & 26th have come, and you made me laugh very much indeed.

Rummins and Capel-Cure have gone sick.  The originals are beginning to get few & far between.”

On the 28th the first passenger ship (SS Falaba) was sunk by a U-boat.  On the 29th the British Government concluded an agreement with American rubber interests that rubber should not be exported to countries other than Great Britain.

{next post 30th March}

GWL 27th March 1915

Yours of the 23rd & 24th have arrived and also another excellent parcel containing, amongst other things, some bangers & ginger & a piece of soap – also chocolate, vaseline and ginger biscuits.  Thank you all very much kind people.  So dear old Ion heard all the gunning, did he?  There was a good deal of row certainly one way and another.  It was sweet of the old thing to think of us.  Heavens I have not seen Arthur for nearly two years, have I?  Or was it just before we left for Malta?  I cannot remember a bit.  The excellent toe of the new socks has been duly noted and appreciated.  They are very excellent socks in every way.  Vicary has sent the films home to be developed and I think the best way would be for you to write and ask Mrs Vicary for a copy.

Poor Harrison’s wife had a very bad smash in a dog cart, and at first they could not tell her he had gone, &then apparently they told her he had got a job on the lines of communication & what happened then I don’t know.  Croft & he are buried side by side.  Strenuous days these – we dig all night or most of it & spend the day trying to keep warm.  The wind is still bitter.  The worst of it is that we have such a long way to walk before we get to the place at which we have to scratch.  Do you see that Fritz has offered peace on condition that he gets Belgium.  Let’s hope France & Russia won’t accept, it would fairly leave us in the ditch, wouldn’t it?

doc1813895

The Commonwealth War Graves record for Dickebusch New Military Cemetery where Croft and Harrison are now buried.

{next post 29th March}

GWL 26th March 1915

This day last year our Manchurian party was in Port Arthur!   How crowded the last eighteen months have been.  A very nice parcel came yesterday containing an extremely good cake, now defunct.  Last night we dug all night in a turnip field.  Horrible waste of perfectly good turnips, but I expect they will all turn (joke! unintentional but rather good) up again some day.  Yesterday I sent home some dirty clothes in a sand bag…….I think you had better send me out a new set of underthings & have the others washed.. I have not got a change now.  We are still in our little wood & all the cocki-olly birds are singing like anything.  We have not been shot at for three whole days.  Tremendous relief.  Major Nisbet has got a week’s sick leave to go and see the dentist, so now i’m commanding “B” company …….. I have been in all the Companies except ‘A now!  A kind of roving officer, who gets pushed off in any direction and never really gets settled.

I wish you could have been at our concert the other night, we sang beautifully – There is going to be another this evening if the head quarter people don’t kill us.  A parcel arrived for the regiment this morning “principally given by Mrs  George Power”. It came from the Association.

Topping bath yesterday – a great relief, because then for a short time if you feel a bit tickle now & then, you don’t begin to wonder!  Yesterday we had a bitter wind from the north, but the night was perfectly lovely.”

{next post 27th March}

GWL 25th March 1915

Your letters of the 21st and 22nd have come.  Awfully wet again.  The hut does not leak much, which is something to be thankful for indeed.  Last night we sang, why I cannot think; perhaps like Tommy A we were all feeling sentimental and it certainly was raining horribly hard. The Colonel did not like it!  We started with the”Preacher” for Major Corner’s benefit! Several deputations were sent from the Regimental HQ Tent to know if it would soon be over, but they had no effect.  I think people, who have the rough time of it, when we are in front, should be allowed a little latitude when we get back; don’t you?……. This afternoon I am going to make a desperate effort to have a bath.  The shave was accomplished yesterday and your husband looks a little less piratical than he did.  So they censored one of my letters did they?  They do open a certain number, I know, but apparently, they have escaped so far……..”

Tommy A or Tommy Atkins had become a familiar term referring to the common soldier.  The terms origins go back to the Battle of Boxtel in 1794.  The story goes that the Duke of Wellington came across a soldier dying in the mud, Private Thomas Atkins, who is alleged to have said just before he died “Don’t worry,Sir, all in a day’s work”.

{next post 26th March}

GWL 24th March 1915

Things are moving in such queer ways now that I have not been unable to write since saturday.  We were pulled out to go into the trenches on Saturday night and have been there until early this morning: now I think we are trekking, but where nobody knows.  Such a lot of letters came to-day……. It is beastly wet again, although the last few days have been heavenly, with hardly a cloud in the sky.  Sunday was a wretched day.  I sat in a new trench all day & night.  Very wet and not much shelter. New trenches very rarely have.  Dug outs & other luxuries gradually spring up after some time of occupation.  The most uncomfortable part was when our anti-aircraft guns opened on the German aeroplanes.  There were a whole heap up and we got all the stuff coming down; distinctly annoying.  It is bad enough being shelled by Fritz, but the back splash of your own guns is the limit, isn’t it?  One more alas – Poor Croft was shot that night and died the next morning – He and Harrison were shot on almost the same piece of ground.  It is very sad, isn’t it?  We are getting rather short in “C”! as Rummins has gone sick with water on the knee or something.  We are at present in a wooden hut in a wood a little way back.  Where we go or when nobody knows or if they do they do not say so.  We are doing a kind of rest now, but not at our old spot,which is rather a shame, as it was quite comfortable.  Heavens we were dirty when we turned up here.  Nobody has had a bath for three weeks and I have not shaved for 6 days now.  A beastly sight.  I think I shall try and get a bath somehow to-day, but where remains to be see.”

2nd Lt R J Croft was killed on March 21st.    The huts referred to were at Rosen Hill near Reninghelst.  The trenches were near Dickebusch.  During this period the Battalion lost two officers and 32 other ranks killed and 4 officers and 131 other ranks wounded.  Elsewhere on the Eastern Front on March 22nd Przemysl capitulated to the Russian forces.

{next post 25th March}

GWL 20th March 1915

Your letter of the 15th has come.  Alas, poor dear old “Father” Harrison was hit in the head the night before last, when we were digging behind the fire trenches & the poor old man died yesterday morning.  Although I had not known him for long he was a good friend and a jolly good subaltern to me.  We buried him this morning.  I am afraid it will just about do for his wife, as she is so ill that they could not tell her that he had been ordered out.

All yesterday it snowed and blew great guns.  In fact a regular blizzard, the wind is bitterly cold and we seem to have gone back to the bad old days of January, except for the appearance of several little primroses.  To-day is a bit better but the wind is still bad.  There have been a lot of German aeroplanes over here today & guns have been popping at them without any success that we could see.  It is nice being back in C Coy.

More aeroplanes, this time the Germans are doing the popping.  The worst of it is that you can never really tell what they are, as they say the Germans have little blinds – that they pull over the black crosses – which have the allied circles painted on them.  One that dropped a bomb here one day had the rings on it.  Old Dinham was not very far off and he ran like a hare to his billet.  Yes, it is all clouding over again & it looks rather like rain.  We are in quite a nice billet, with a little garden behind, nothing much in it.  Apparently the people here grow a heap of parsnips; great big fields of them.  Some of the fields are quite green now, but the trees have not come out at all yet.  I suppose it is rather early.  Do you know that the birds were singing all through that show last Sunday?  It was rather extraordinary. Old man Fritz was putting them into our wood pretty thick, but the birds did not mind.  The pheasants and hares were a little bit worried about it, but they were the only ones.  Now I must close – there is no news – Bye bye till tomorrow”

Harrison was referred to in the post of 12th March.

{next post 24th March}

GWL 18th March 1915

Your letter of the 14th has come.  Ion told me he was sending home a rifle.  I am glad it has arrived.  Quite a fine trophy, isn’t it?  Once more I am a member of C Coy and will partake of the things you send out……….Poor Peter, I hope he won’t be bad. He is rather liable to have colds and things.  We have got a funny little billet.  A very small room in which it is just possible to lay three valises.  The kitchen is quite impossible owing to an old man of disgusting habits.  They have got a milk churn worked by a dog who runs round and round inside a big wheel outside the house.  Just like the donkey wheel at Carisbrooke Castle.  This morning, while performing my ablutions, I placed all my gear on the churn not knowing it’s evil ways, and suddenly the dog outside started to run round and the whole lot was deposited on a very dirty floor.  Very annoying, wasn’t it?…..The boots you sent me are lasting very well indeed & are awfully comfortable.  I have had the first A & N S pair resoled and so I have two thoroughly good ones now.”

Elsewhere – Allied naval attack on the Dardanelles forts repulsed.  British battle ships “Irresistible” and “Ocean” sunk.

{next post 20th March}

The First World War seen through the letters of George Power