Monday, February 24, 2014

William Laurie Field's War - Part 10

“Our rest has again been rudely interrupted, but I suppose now the spring is at hand we must begin to expect “things lively.” I am glad to say we have given in our goatskin coats, and we have had waterproof mackintoshes issued instead. They are fine things, as light as a feather, and will go over full pack quite easily. They are after the cape style with just two slips for the arms. Three people could be got under one. We are only about ----- from the trenches, even here. During the night bullets whistle about, and we hear them thud in the ground close by. I shall be in the trenches again to-morrow night and again seeing more excitement, if you can call trench life exciting. I have thoroughly enjoyed our little rest; it has been a real treat, and they were lenient with regard to our walking out at night. Nearly every night I went into -----, which is quite a decent size and a busy place. I don’t feel a bit like writing to-day, and if I don’t feel like it I can never make a show. How is H getting on? I suppose you do not know here he is at all. We had some real sport yesterday. We were roused out from our billets at 3a.m., and marched off at 5a.m., and had to wait about all day in readiness. Some (censored) of the firing line. Of course we had to do something, so we made fishing lines and tied worms onto them. Most of the afternoon we were pulling little fish out of some water close by. It was grand and so exciting, as just as we got the bounders free from the water they would drop off. However, we landed quite a decent catch. An officer took a photograph of us, so if you see a picture of about a hundred or so fellows fishing, look out for your humble.”

March 19th

“Thanks so much for your nice parcel. I received it just as we came out of the trenches after a rather trying experience, as it had snowed and rained, and the nights were as black as ink. We have to keep watch night and day, and when you cannot see your hand in front of your face, it is very trying. I am so glad you sent a Standard loaf. One of our fellows has a loaf sent to him every week, so please send me one in your parcels in future if you can find room. I am glad you changed the style of the cocoa tin, as it is a much more handy shape for my pack. … I feel awfully tired, and I shall have a busy day again to-morrow, so this letter will be a short one. I had a very near turn to-day. The Germans were shelling our trench, and about six of us were standing quite close together. A shell dropped right into the middle of us. I had my back to it, and all I felt was a lob of mud and stuff which hit me in the back. One fellow was wounded a little, but it was a marvel we were not all put out of action, as it was not a yard from any one of us. I do hate shells when they begin to come so near. It was of the “Johnson” type, but of course much smaller. I found the nose afterwards, buried in the trench. It weighed quite 4lb. The other night, when we were out, our S.M. went on reconnoitring, and found a wounded man. Poor fellow, he had been out there five days and had not been able to crawl in. How he had lived between the two trenches is marvellous. I will furnish you with very much fuller details if I have the fortune to be spared to come home again. We were not in the Neuve Chapelle, but not so far away.”

March 20th, Saturday morning;

“The articles you put in the parcel were quite a success, and I would like some more sometime, as I gave them to the fellows of my platoon, and they enjoyed them much. I will write more next time as my duties finish to-night, and I shall have more time. I am just finishing this, the first minute I have had to spare to-day, and I collect the letters in ten minutes time. Good-bye. … There are lots of dead in front of our trenches, poor fellows. (Quenchy, near Govenchy.” Wolverton Express 1915 Apr. 2nd

“March 27th … We are still hard at it in the trenches - one thing, they are very good ones, and fairly dry, except on the days when it has snowed or rained. We had quite a night of snow four days ago, and it was a bit rough, even to-day we have had snow. To-night, as I am writing we are out of the trenches, sleeping in an old farm which is a treat after many nights in the trenches; we get very little sleep, some during the day, but all of it is at odd times, and does not really rest one. … You would have envied our breakfast in the trenches yesterday - I have a fellow who looks after me generally and does most of the cooking. This morning we had fried bacon, two fried eggs, and also fried potatoes - it was a treat, and for trench life it was a wonderful dish. We are allowed fires in these trenches, and now we have our bacon issued raw, so that we can fry it ourselves. In the trenches, breakfast is our chief meal, and as everyone must be awake from half past four we generally have it about 6.30 to 7a.m. … It is Palm Sunday to-morrow, and the Sergeant has just announced a Holy Communion Service for to-morrow morning at 8a.m. … Have run out of Saccharine Tablets …”

“March 29th … Thank you for your letter and Saccharine Tablets. … Yesterday was quite a peculiar day (Sunday). I went to Holy Communion at 8a.m., quite near the trenches, fancy only about ---- yards behind the firing line, in the afternoon we had a service at 3p.m. in an old barn. Picture about 50 fellows standing around a clergyman, and five or six officers in front, all joining most heartily in singing the hymns; it seemed so simple and nice, and the Guards’ Chaplain, who generally takes our services, is such a nice man. At 5.30p.m. we had a concert, and really the songs, etc., were quite tip-top; we had a splendid pianist too, and he accompanied the songs without any music of course. At 7.30 we had to parade and had to go digging in front of our trenches, returning about 11p.m., had a cup of tea and got off to bed, that was our day of rest. … To-day we go into the trenches, and except for lack of sleep shall have (censored) much easier days. Have not seen “H” yet, can you tell me which battery he is attached to? Let me know when the Bucks and Oxon leave England. One thing, they have the best of the weather before them. It will be nice to see some of my old pals again, if we meet. … I believe troops are coming out in thousands now, but from what I can see of the matter, we shall want every man, and somehow, I don’t think we shall get much rest.”

“April 3rd - We had such a lovely service last night. The Bishop of London preached and he was a treat, I wish you could be here at one of these services; I should think five or six hundred soldiers were present and to hear them sing, it nearly raised the roof. That was Good Friday. Fancy, in another three months, we shall have been soldiering a year; it does seem a long time. Our regiment was honoured when we were sent out in November. Very few Territorial Regiments came out so soon, and we have made a good name out here, although I say it myself. The Guards won’t have it now we are Territorials. They say we are the 2nd Irish Guards. We are on splendid terms with all the Guards, but the Irish in particular, and woe betide any regiment running us down. The Irish will stick up for us through thick and thin.” Wolverton Express 1915 Apr. 9th

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