14th January 1919

Dear Emmie

In answer to yours of the 6th inst I think it has been waiting for me for about three days. I havn’t had a letter about a gun puzzle but perhaps it will turn up later. I also seem to be attending a lot of dances lately but of course I help with the music. I have just returned from Tournai, havn’t been back a half hour yet but I must catch the next post. There is a whist drive and dance this evening and of course I am in for that. There seem to be more men being demobilised lately we have had about 30 go this last week. You need not trouble about getting that book for me but if you happen to spot it anywhere you can send it on. There is not much to tell you about Tournai: I went to most of the places of importance there and it wasn’t so bad for a change. I saw Charlie Gibbs and went out with him for a couple of nights but he was taken bad with the flu (which he had already had a touch of) and is now in hospital. I happen to have a sore chest, must have caught cold somewhere but I don’t think that I am destined for hospital. Everything in Tournai is very dear: a piece of chocolate which the canteens sell for 1½d cost about 7½d in the shops. 3½d packets of cigarettes are being sold by the French for 1 franc. I had a supper of chips last night and for what I could get for ½d in England before the war I had to pay 1F for. I can certainly remember saying “I give in” to you after having had a tussle with you but I havn’t said that to anyone in the Army yet. Of course I havn’t had many scraps but I can stand my own with any man with one arm or such like. I don’t play a violin now it is all flute pumping etc. Glad to hear your uncle has turned over a new leaf. I suppose you say “c’est l’guerre”. I am sorry that I can’t turn over a new leaf as this is the last one of the pad. I don’t think the Govt have decided what to do yet with apprentices but I hope they jolly soon get a move on. Well I havn’t any more to write this time so will pack up.

With Fondest Love

From Yours Will xxx


13th January 1919

Drummer WM. 19013, 9th Ryl, Sx. Regt, B.E.F, France

Dear Emmie

I received your letter of the 4th inst on the 10th and this is about the first chance I have had of answering it. I am now at Tournai (perhaps) enjoying myself. I went to the pictures with C Gibbs last night and saw “The heart of a lion” Charlie had a touch of the flu but that didn’t stop him from coming out. I am billeted just for these four days at the back of Charlies’ building so we are quite near. Charlie had the same thing happen to him when he was in gas as I had when training in Blighty. A piece of paper got under the air inlet valve and he couldn’t breathe and as he pulled the chemical box out of the bag his mask came off and it’s lucky for him that he is still alive to tell the tail. Of course it is a crime to be gassed like that but I don’t suppose the censor (if there is one) will know or want to know who “Charlie” is. I will send you my nib in the next letter and then you can change it tout l’suit. Ca ne fait sien means “it does not matter” or litterally “This is nothing”. If we get told off by our superiors we say “ca ne fait sien” in a free and easy style. Rather a funny word to use is “razzle” what would you think I meant if I said “I am going down town on the razzle tonight” it sounds a funny word to me but perhaps it is common now in Blighty. French towns are alright as far as looking at the architecture is concerned but there is always a possibility of someone suddenly seizing your hat and disappearing in a doorway with it. This is a rather queer, but in parts a common custom: But if one is informed of the “parts” he can keep wide of them. I have not had it happen to me yet and I don’t suppose it ever will. There is only one thing to do if such a thing happens and that is to go in after it and be careful how you go. Of course you must know what these houses are, cafes generally or to all appearance from the outside but pas bon inside. Well I don’t suppose you want to know anything of this sort so I will change the subject. I had a good day at Lille and heard a jolly good concert party there. An English one, men and women and all civvies. They sang all first class stuff. We were back at Saintegnies again by 10PM otherwise known as 22 o’cl and the next morn at 09.30 we were off to this place. I will close now as a chum of mine has been waiting for about half hour for me so “two to loo” hoping you are in the pink of condition.

from Your Ever Loving Will xxx


8th January 1919

Dear Emmie

Your letter to hand of the 1st inst. I had just given up hope for a letter again when I spotted your handwriting. The chap was just going off with it. This post has been delayed as it is it went to the wrong Batt first. I suppose it found the wrong bag. The sorting office is just near as I suppose it was their mistake. Rather a lot of Soldiers at the Mission all at once I would like to see some of them again. If you see either F Champ or W Sharp I would like you to tell them that I would like a letter from them. It is a wonder that F Champ has not written. I am of an opinion that my leave will be near March now as I think I mentioned before. I think more men are being discharged now than what are going on leave, I suppose they can’t get enough transport for all the lot. Some of the boys in these drums had to walk 66 Kilos for the train quite far enough with full pack. It took them three days and I should think that they had earnt their leave after that. Rather strange meeting Mr Westfold on Kingst. Station I guess you were surprised. No! there wasn’t even a card from home Christmas I would like you to mention the fact to Mabel from me please and don’t forget I don’t mean that you generally forget things only perhaps you might have thought that I didn’t mean it. How is Mabel now does she even speak of Will? I have even done something silly: broken my watch

glass now but I will soon get that repaired as I think we are going to Lille on Thursday for the day. You see they look after us a bit now that the war is over. Thanks for example of sqr root I can see now how it’s done. Our whist drive is on tonight and I am on guard but I will work it all right. You will be surprised to hear that Donald (my half-cousin on my Father’s side) is in a hospital in England. I forget the town now. He is jolly lucky for I don’t suppose he will come out here again. I am just knocking off for tea now will finish this after.

It is now tomorrow as the Irishman said and our whist drive went off tres bon. I played better last night and managed to get 168 and the third prize was 172 so I didn’t do so bad. Too many men wanted to go to Lille so our names were picked and I was one of the lucky ones. It is only for a day but it will be worth a visit. I think we go to Tournai on Friday. I will close now with

Fondest Love

from Will xxx


6th January 1919

Dear Emmie

I hope to get a letter from you today. I had one about three days ago from you. Three men were demobilised from this Batt yesterday and one actually refused his ticket. You’ll catch me doing that “I should shay sho.” All men who have been out here fourty months or more have to parade at orderly room tomorrow so I suppose they will be off soon. We have another whist drive tomorrow night but I see that I don’t get booby prize next time. I think I am going to Tournai on the 10th inst for four days. By all accounts there is some life there. It will be a bit of a change for this place is rather quiet. Please will you send me one of long rough things used as sponges for washing. I forget the name of them but I dare say you know what I mean. There is not much to write about so I will finish this when I get that letter this afternoon / I will have to close this letter but promise you a longer for the next.

Fondest Love

From Will xxx


4th January 1919

Dear Emmie

It is a dirty night tonight pouring of rain and it is not worth going out so I will endeavour to write you a few lines. The letters are not generally censored now and we have to put our names on the outside of the envelope and stick them down. We had our first book keeping class today and I am all mixed up with debits and credits. I suppose I will see though it all soon. We are doing the double entry system. The last time I wrote I said that I wouldn’t write to H Days place until I heard from them but I changed my mind and wrote to Harold last night. I do expect an answer this time. I had a letter from home today and Dad gives me one guess at the surprise and I have said an organ. I knew it was something to do with music and only an organ or a “baby grand” would be a surprise. If hey had said nothing about it until I got home the “Surprise” would have worked. It does seem a long time now since I saw you and I hope that the leave livens up a bit. It seems to have almost stopped. I think I am in the first 100 now so I ought to be home before March. Perhaps I will have my ticket by then. We are having another whist drive next Tuesday and I see that I don’t get the booby prize next time. I had a letter from Don who is in hospital, the other day and it took ten days to get here and he is in France so how about some of your letters being delayed: I am lucky to get them in six days. When he wrote he was still queer but he ought to be better by now.

Dad tells me that it is hard to get men out of the Army in our trade as it is not essential but I dare say allowances are made for apprentices.

We haven’t had any butter issue for about six days and we have to have bread and bread unless there is jam. I don’t seem to eat so much bread lately I am always giving some away to the civvies. I suppose it is because we get very little exercise but ce n’est fait rien. We pronounce this san fair re ang as all the people do. It means “it doesn’t matter” but literally is: this makes nothing. It is surprising how we get on with the one or two words we know but we can always make ourselves understood even if we turn ourselves down side up with expostulations (good word that). One of the boys overstayed his leave 9 days and only got 16 days clink. (excuse slang) Another boy said something pretty to a sergeant and he got 18 days. We come off very lenient lately.

There are some of our colonial troops just returning to France after about two years in Blighty dodging it on absentees and they are surprised to find their names taken off the Batt roll. They get let off lightly but if it was an Imperial he would get about ten years. It is now neuf hour et vingt minutes so I will close.

With Fondest Love

From Will xxx

PS Please excuse writing as I have been very quick.


2nd January 1919

Dearest Emmie

Yours to hand of the 27th the letter I have been waiting for. It did not take long to come and yet I have not received one since the 24th: perhaps there are some more on the road delayed by the Christmas traffic. I am sorry you did not receive a letter from me Xmas day or eve but I didn’t have one either but I hope you are not still cross. By the tone of your letter I should think that you didn’t like the Xmas card I sent you; perhaps it was too plain but it really took my eye. There were others but too gaudy and the officers helped us by paying two thirds the C.P. I hope I did not spoil your Xmas for you don’t seem to have had at all a good time. Where is “Norbury”? is it north east of London or am I wrong. I presume you enjoyed yourself as you leave it for me to guess. I wish I had been with you: for some reason or other it has reminded me of the rambles we used to go on. I hope to be able to join you on the same, this year and then (?) Oh exstacy. You say that you “slept out”: you don’t mean that you hadn’t a roof over you do you? for that is what I would have said if our resting place had been a shell hole or sunken road. But the war is over now and we want to forget it, if such a thing is possible. We still hear explosions I suppose they are mines going up etc so you see what the German is. Did you see “Uncle Sam” and did he have striped trousers. I remember you going to that lady’s place at Leicester Sq last year but I don’t remember what she was: a dressmaker?

Please get leave to tell me what the “Surprise” is; I can’t forget it and am afraid it is going to be a disappointment. Of course I didn’t know G.T. was a flirt: all the fillies you might have seen him with may have been his cousins etc: I really thought he was such a shy boy. I don’t think I blamed the girl did I? At any rate I should not have done as I know nothing of the case. I don’t think he had much chance of walking with girls or at least not English or French for the last six months but of course I stick up for my own sex. I don’t think you would go out with a different boy every night (even if you had the same cause to) because I know you different; now would you. Well Emmie I am quite myself tonight in fact a bit more, and I would like to know if this letter pleases you in the least; now don’t forget to tell me. I am glad to hear that H.Day has got his discharge. I have written both to him and his home but haven’t heard for a long time from them so I am writing na plue (excuse spelling). Do you ever see Mr Day in Kings X now? I think we are having electric light fitted up in this house: we have some old German wire and that is all so far, we only want the fittings and current: perhaps you will send one of the latter out by wireless.

We still do manoeuvres of a night even now but is generally “scrounging” wood for a fire. There are not many hedges in this country but we found a door one night and a prop holding a clothes line last night. The clothes line was used today but not the prop. Or rather the prop was used in a diff. way and had become much shorter. I think I will start slowing down now I have answered your question or request and I hope to your pleasure. I will ask you to write me a nice letter next time if it only a short one*. You don’t know what a difference it makes after hearing from you. There are a few things I want to tell you and perhaps you have heard them all from me before but I can’t put them here because I havn’t all the dictionary at my disposal but I will tell you one day in a few words (in the near future I hope) when we are placed as we were in pre-war days.

Well I must close this time as I am on guard and have been from my post three hours and once again I wish you all a happy new year from your Khaki boy in Belgium (I was just going to say France) and

With Fondest Love

From Yours Ever Will xxxxx

P.S. *Of course all your letters are nice. (Observe Star*)


1st January 1919

Dear Emmie

It is new years day today and that is why I am writing. Really I have nothing much to write about but I don’t suppose you mind as long as you get a line from me. Last night we played at a dance which followed a whist drive. You will smile when you know that I won a prize yes the “booby prize”. I was playing as lady and was presented with the top end of a candle but the lowest gentlemen (lower than I) had a fag-end (excuse the talk) and a match. Of course both were wrapped in ten times more paper than was necessary. The dance was till 10 o’cl but was prolonged until 11 o’cl. Eventually we wound up at 01.30 o’cl 1-1-19. I hope to hear from you soon. I havn’t had a letter from you since before Xmas and I guess you don’t know how I feel. Perhaps letters have been held up for you must have written in seven days. Have you ever read “The Luck Of The Vails” it is not at all a bad book by E.F. Benson. We are taking it in turns in visiting Tournai. I think we spend four days there. If I go I will see C.Gibbs. That is all I really want to go for. Did you ever go to that Fancy dress ball with E.V. at Anderton’s. We are having a fairly easy time. The other day we had a boxing lecture so I guess the next craze will be boxing. Wrestling is more my mark. I don’t fancy the look of broken noses and thick ears. Does H.B. still keep the piano up now. I occasionally get a practice now and again. There is a very good piano in an Estaminet near here. I would like you to send me another writing pad s’il vous plait.

I will now close as it is getting late and I didn’t get to bed until the early hours of this morning. By the way I didn’t forget the white rabbits. I wish you a happy and prosperous new year and hope to be with you soon.

Fondest Love

From Will xxx

P.S. Please remember me to all at home.


29th December 1918

Dear Emmie

I havn’t had a letter from you since Christmas eve but will try to write something. We (the drums) had our Xmas dinner last night and I am pleased to say it was a complete success. I think 27 in all had dinner but there are about 10 away on courses and in hospital etc. We had a comic out of one of the concert parties and he kept things lively. We borrowed a large room (Estaminet) and also a piano for our Brig. orchestra. We had two turkeys, meat and veg, and fruit and custard second course; it was très bon. There were plenty of drinks and cigars and cigarettes so you will guess we had a lively time. I was one of a few who knew what I was doing near the end. I guess some of them felt the power of weak French wine. We had dances and songs and I played most of the time. We finished at 10.30pm and I dare say we won’t have such an evening in the Army again unless we are here for next Xmas.

One of the drummers is going home on demobilisation staff as he is an old soldier: not a bad job. It is surprising the number of people that attend church in France they seem to come away in mass formation after nearly every service. I was not able to attend the service this morning as I am on guard but çe ne fait rien (as is on everybody’s lips for everything. (ça le guerre.) I would like you to get me a nib for my pen please as I can make nothing of the one I have now. [crossed out] I would like on a shade finer s’il vous plait. I will close now hoping to hear from you soon.

Fondest Love

From Will xxx


28th December 1918

Dear Emmie

Christmas is over for you now and I hope you enjoyed yourself, of course I wish I had been with you but perhaps I will be with you for Xmas 1919: at least I hope so. We had a fairly good dinner on the 25th but ours (the drums) is coming off tonight. I am looking forward to a good time and will let you know how it went down when I write next. I havn’t had a letter for a few days now but hope to get a short epistle today. I had one other Xmas card besides yours and that was from Chigwell. It’s a good job I sent them one. It hasn’t stopped raining here for two days now so you can guess what its like. All the gutters are like small streams. I will have to leave this letter now as I have volunteered to do “orderly man” for dinner.

I have finished reading the “Vow” and also “White Dove” and I think I liked the former better although “White Dove” is a good tale. B.Thorne (I think I have mentioned him before) one of the old band boys went to hospital today with a boil. Everybody goes to hospital for the least thing now rather different than when hostilities were on. I will close now and write again soon.

Fondest love

From Will xx