16th May 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].
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
Dear Emmie Yours received of the 2nd inst. And also parcel of the 3rd for which I thank you very much. I think your make is “très bon” and cannot find any fault with it although made with war-time material. I will tell you something rather interesting about that parcel perhaps another time. Please thank your mother for me for the gingerbread and tell her it was just right and not too hot. I have written an answer to yours of the 2nd inst but am waiting for a green envelope to post it in; perhaps it would be too touching for the officer to read or he might even feel envious. I have just discovered that I have a relation in this Batt. I heard from Battle yesterday and they say that I have a cousin in the 9th R.SxRgt. but he is “sick” in hospital now so when he is discharged and rejoins the Batt. I will introduce myself to him. To my knowledge I have never met him but I have seen some of his people who live at Ninfield which is near Battle. I noticed that you posted that parcel on the anniversary of my joining up. I do not want too many 3rds of May to pass me in the army because I think it is an absolute waste of time. Of course wars will come but this one has stayed too long; if I remember correctly this war should only have lasted six months but one or two “heads” must have become so attached to the game that they don’t like leaving it. I have answered your little bit of French in the other letter. I think I have made a mess in the spelling but you will understand it. I also understood that other piece of writing which I have answered in a similar way. I would like to know how Will Arnold goes on. I shouldn’t think he will stick the army long for although he will get perhaps more medical advice I think it is of a rather different nature compared with the late Dr.B. Well my dear I must be closing now to catch this post. With Best Love From Yours Will xx
Dear Emmie I noticed that writing on the cover of book and at first thought it was some scribble until I held it up to a light and then I was able to read it. My answer is [written backwards] I love you more than I used to if that is possible “I love you with all my heart” far more than I can describe on paper. I am always thinking of you and those thoughts help to keep me cheerful. I am longing for the time when I can take you in my arms and give you that birthday kiss. If the censor reads this he will feel envious. I found out my mistake about Mr Rolfe soon after I posted that letter and I corrected myself in the next. I am just as bright as when I first came out here. I do feel depressed sometimes but your letters always cheer me up. If we hadn’t have moved I might have got into the orchestra but perhaps it is for the best where I am now. Music generally cheers me up if I can partake in the making of it. Thanks very much for those two books they will help pass a few idle moments away. I have a little suggestion to make. When you write me will you put in some paper and an envelope for the answer: it is impossible to get any here and this is my last piece. One of the other chaps suggested it to me and I think it is a very good idea. We had some rain last night and now the mud is 3-6 inches thick outside. Yours to hand of the 2nd inst. It is very strange that you should write that in French which I have written on the first page of this letter. My answer is J’avez aime vous de tout mon cour mon Cherie. Je penser cett il la correct response, il n’a pas. Can you understand this. Perhaps you will not call it French. I am glad you enjoyed the social I thought of when I used to wait for you. It does not seem a whole year that I have been in the army time flies so. I wish I could come to the Albert Hall with you you was with me the last time I went I think. If you were able to write twice a day it will give me something to write about as there is nothing doing here. I don’t want you to debar yourself of anything by sending me anything that is rationed. I am not bored at anything you write. Emmie dear it is more likely that you should get bored with these scraps of paper. Now that I have come to the end of your letter I am at a loss to know what to write about. Please will you send me some sulphur tablets as my blood is out of order. We have been working lately and I haven’t had any sleep for about 36 hours and yet I don’t feel extra tired so I think I will get 20 winks before and 40 winks after dinner. I might tell you I have been having a very cosy time compared with the others. I am waiting for a green envelope to put this in that is why it is in so many “bits”. Well my love I will now conclude with all my thoughts and love for you. From Your (Soldier boy) Will xxx
Dearest Emmie In answer to yours of April 30th, you couldn’t have followed that letter of W.R.M’s close enough I would have another shot if I were you. I am glad to hear that you haven’t had any air-raids for a long time now; perhaps they have stopped them thinking that we will finish making reprisals. It is the only thing you at home can do is to Watch & Pray for us and while I know that you pray night and day for me it helps me to bear all the trials out here. When I first read your letter I wondered how the dickings you knew Mr Taylor’s name. I forgot that he signs the letters. No! he does not censor yours so you may put in exactly what you please. He might be a nice man in civil life but the army has spoilt him. He tries to be a soldier and can’t. Thank Bert very much for his photo: it is very good of him. I know how you look forward to my letters the same as I look for news from you and I will write as often as I can. It seems funny when I read your letters you speak of things which I have forgotten nearly all about and I dare say my letters seem the same to you don’t they? I hope your social eveing at G.F.S. went well. I remember once when the boys from the “Lads Club” were invited we had a fine time. Girls do do things now-a-days. I know that they used to push trucks along on the platforms but I didn’t think it would come to pushing trains along. I have not done any practical first aid and stretcher bearing yet but I dare say I will have to do some soon. Well my dear I will close now hoping I receive a letter from you tonight. With Fondest Love From Your Will xx
Dear Emmie Yours received of 27th ult; thanks very much for cigs and ink tablets. The cigs are the ones I like best. It is now 3 o’cl Sunday afternoon and I am – well I won’t say where this time. I think I described the place before for you to draw your own conclusions. We went to the baths this morning and had a clean change; we are being looked after lately. As luck would have it I managed to get a tune on an old “Joe” (excuse my slang). I dreamt that I was playing the organ at the Mish and that I sounded much better than usual perhaps that is when it is repaired “Après la gare”. How would you like Mr W’s little boy to be named Winslow; he is a lucky man in war time too. The news seems a little better now, we get more here. I saw three newspapers yesterday (Friday’s) so I am well stocked with news. As I look round my cosy dug-out furnished with beds and a fire I often wonder how the boys in the trenches go on. Can you tell me what this represents [symbols] something reminded me of it just now. I wonder what I would be doing were I in “Rue d’tibre” now weakening that spring in the arm chain what! Next time I have leave I hope it is longer than two days and we will have a good time then. Does it seem long since I came out here or does the time go quickly to you. Everybody out here is under the impression that the war will soon be over and I hope that they are right. You don’t say wether you have had any air raids lately have you? Well my dear I cannot think of any more to write so will conclude With Fondest Love From Your Ever Will xx