22nd May 1918

Dear Emmie

It is now 8.30.pm and I am scorching hot by just walking a few yards.  I don’t know if it is being just a little nearer the equator that makes it so hot if so I am glad that I am not right down the south of France. Are you having such weather in England. I see by this evenings paper that there has been an air raid on London I trust that you all are quite safe. There is nothing exciting happened that I might tell you about and I dare say you know more about the war than I do myself at any rate you are at least two days more up to date than I. We are still at rest which of course means occasional working parties. I wrote to one of old band boys this morning who is of low category in England he is now at Thetford in Norfolk. Some Batts out here have cut their trousers down to knickers: I wish we were doing the same. That is something to tell Hurbert Bertie. Our drum-major has some names towards a B.B. but wants about half a dozen more before attempting to start one. I am sorry that I cannot write more trusting that you are all quite well.

With Love From Will xx

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20th May 1918

Dear Emmie

It is now Bank Holiday Monday and the weather is glorious. We all walk about without our tunics on and then it is too hot to do much strenuous work. We are now out for a short rest and I hope that by the time we go back this heat wave has passed. We had a cold shower bath yesterday and it was grand. I haven’t received a letter from you for three whole days now I suppose they have got held up on the way. You see I have some writing paper now. Dad sent it in parcel which came just at the right moment; just as we got into our billit from the line. We had some Stew for dinner today (with a capital “S”) and plum duff with no plums in it.

Yours just received of15th and 16th inst they enable me to write a little longer letter. I havn’t met this newly discovered cousin yet. I think he is in hospital but I don’t know what ails him. Will won’t be able to carry on the F.W.D. now I see Gertie is taking it on I guess she misses him but she is only one among many. If I remember correctly you went on a ramble Whit: Monday last year. I am looking forward toward the time when I can accompany you. When accompanying the Lord’s Prayer and Creed in a monotone I always used to extemporise it is very easy and you’ll get used to it; I cannot write a piece without having the key-board in front of me but I might try one of these times. You put it very mildly about the “bounders” but you would find them ten or twenty times worse in factories. I hope I am not condemning myself.

I notice you write “huns” with a small “h” aren’t they worth a capital now. You have solved that puzzle correctly but our sleep is not often disturbed. I am sorry I cannot “Ecris vous une longue lettre” as there’s nothing to write about. Well ma Cherie I will conclude now

With Love

From Will xxx

P.S. Please excuse writing as nib is going “wonky”

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17th May 1918

Dear Emmie

In answer to yours of the 7th inst. You will be surprised to know that we have been in “les tranchée” since May 1st but by the time you receive this we will be out. No I haven’t met any rabbits yet but there are plenty of rats here which would go very well stewed. Sorry you had to toss who should have the meat. I had to do that yesterday with myself and decided not to have any as it was too bad to eat. It happened today that a Lieu: Colonel came round and saw our dinners which literally weren’t good enough for dogs and I think he is looking into it further. I suppose by now you have been vaccinated have you had much pain with it I didn’t. You tell Bert that I would wear knickers if I could and that if he wants to help win the war not to go in for trousers as they take more material.

I think you must have read that card of 5th wrong. I don’t think I said I hadn’t heard for you for a long time; if you have it read it carefully again. I don’t know the song “The Great red dawn” but I see plenty out here. I like that piece of poetry very much. Yes I do know how fond you are of it. You don’t “gas” too much but I would like you to use both sides of the paper even if you only use one sheet; if my dad was to see your letters he would have a blue fit if you know what that’s like. I am sorry you haven’t heard from me for a long while by your letter of 12th inst but you know I have no writing paper. This is the cleanest sheet out of my note book which you see I had started to use. I am glad to hear that the congregation of the Church is good and I would like you to remember me to  Mr Chapman and tell him I wish his concert a success helping to pay for the organ repairs. Yes, I was at Aldershot having a holiday this time last year. We have been in two or three more holes since that first one I spoke of. Old German dug-outs are much deeper than our own but I prefer ours because some daylight gets in at times. I didn’t know W.Mayne had been to Italy. I asked his where-abouts when I wrote home last. I was just about to write for some Harris’s Pomade and it is very thoughtful of you getting me some. I don’t get much time for writing now todays work is, on duty 12 mid night to 5am. breakfast 5.30 sleep 6am – 12 noon dinner 12.45 work from 2pm to 5 tea 5.30 stand to from 7-8 on from 9 till 12 mid. No wonder time flies. I have had one case self inflicted bullet wound through bysept muscles upper right arm. Accident. Bad wound. 5 inch by 1½ and out another hole through the other side. You must excuse all these scraps of paper as I can’t get any other stuff. You see one letter is about a week old but you must excuse that as I hadn’t an envelope. I think I will have to come on you for another note book now as I have used it all up in letters.

(W.R.M. says life here is rather monotonous but it will not last long.) [Transcriber’s note: Using their prearranged code, this suggests that William is in Loos, France] This is a very quiet part of the line and there is not much going on. Our artilary send one over about 10 to every one of Jerry’s. The first night I was in the line I might say I got unnecessary “wind up” but that is all over now. Old Fritz has just woke up again I can hear some wiz-bang crackers going off. Well my dear I will have to conclude now

With Fondest Love

From Yours Ever

Will xx

P.S. Please will you call at Mrs Gibbs, 121 Roman St, Clerkenwell E.C.1 for Charlie’s address for me at your own leisure. My Pa will direct you to it: it is near the reservoir on the top of Pentonville Hill. It is a Singer’s sewing machine shop. I met Mrs Gibbs when Charlie was on his final leave.

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14th April 1918

Dear Emmie

I am now sitting on some straw in the loft of a barn just waiting for church-parade. Of course there are no C of E churches here so I suppose we will have an open air service. I am going to H.C. this morning at 12 o’cl it will be the first time since I left Colchester. I met C.Gibbs last night he is stationed at another village about three miles from here. They are having a much easier time than we are; our first parade is 6.45 in the morning and another one at 9 o’cl until 12.30: I do not attend the latter one as I am on S.B. course but I think it is a long time for men who are out of the line for a rest. There is also a parade from 2 till 3.30 in the afternoon for organised games. For some reason or other church parade is washed out so I will proceed with this letter. I would like you to send me some “ink tablets” s’il vous plait. This is a sample of only one in a pen. I think two would make a better colour but “beggars can’t be choosers”. I had this one given to me. I would like to know the general opinion of this last affair we cannot get a paper here. This is rather an old fashioned town they have a town crier and the shepherds blow horns to collect their sheep like we have bugle calls to fall in etc: Women and girls wear no head-gear; sometimes they tie a kerchief round their heads which looks like a monks hat. They mostly wear clogs which doesn’t improve their walk at all. My friend has a job in the orderly room and he has a lot of work to do which keeps till 10 and 4 o’cl at night. Our food is fair and the tea the cooks make is farely good but being in tin cans it does not taste so good as it would out of china cups. I am sorry to say that H.C. has been washed out I suppose the clergyman has been unable to come. I was offered a lance-corporal’s stripe the other day but I refused it so as I could go on S.B. I have not heard from you yet but I hope to have a letter by Monday. It is very cold here but I dare say it will turn warmer soon. I broke the glass of my watch the other day but soon had it replaced at a watch-makers in the village. I will let you hear from me as often as I can but we have no post box and sometimes we miss the corporal when he comes round for letters. I have spoken to some of the boys of the 52nd who have been up the line and one would think that they had been on a beanfeast to hear them talk. One boy was hit in the arm and also the first and second finger if is right hand and he still stuck to his machine gun and when I saw him he hadn’t had any medical aid: his fingers were nearly better but his arm was a bit sore with a bit of shrapnel in it.

My address is W.M.19073 A Coy. 3 Plat 9th R.S.Rt B.E.F. France. Please write often; I will every day of I can but I think that is rather imposs. Field cards are issued to us about four a week but I have not seen a blue envelope yet. Well my dear I must conclude now and “Que dieu vous lénisse”

With Fondest Love

From Yours Ever

Will xx

P.S. Please remember me to Ma & Pa.

[Transcriber's note: Letter is incorrectly dated 14th May. Should be 14th April].

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13th May 1918

Dear Emmie

A kind friend has been good enough to spare me a sheet of paper and an envelope, hence these tears [?]. Yours to hand of the 7th inst. received Sat. last. It is now Monday I am told. I cannot make out how the days go so quickly. I don’t say “peut être” about motor rides because I don’t know what it means. Sorry to hear it is so wet at home but of course that is nothing compared with (?) We have been having a lot of weather lately. I guess that clergyman is a peculiar character is it the same one that was there when the choir sang “Christ and his Soldier” there. I thank you for those ink pellets again if I did not in a previous letter, they come in very handy. I remember thanking you for the parcel but I forget posting it. I have been waiting for a green envelope for nearly a fortnight and it has messed me up not coming and I really forget what I have written. What do you mean by “We will all have a jolly good holiday when the war is over”. How many does the “all” stand for, two I presume. You want me to tell you “lots” well I would if I could but I Can’t with a capital “C”. I answered that question in French in another letter in the positive I think I read rightly. Please let me have some writing material – we are a ragtime lot here nothing is done with any method we haven’t even a canteen what we can use. Some Regts have canteens as far forward as the front line and here are we can’t even get one at the “back” line. I think I will drawn to a close because if I moan too much this letter won’t go through. You know you can’t always tell ones character by ones hand writing. Well my dear I will have to conclude now as time presses

With Fondest Love

From

Will xxx

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