19th January 1919

Dear Emmie

I have not had a letter from you to answer for about four days so am just giving you all (which is not much) the news. I wrote half a letter to you yesterday but as I had no time to finish it, have started again this evening. I do not suppose I will finish this this evening as we have a dance on and I do not know what time. We started French classes last night so that is something else to help us pass our weary hours away. We have lost another drummer on demob: He has only been out here the same time as me but good luck to him. He is a G.P.O. employee up the north of England. Has my Dad heard what is being done in the case of broken apprenticeships; in the book I read on demobilisation it said the case was still being considered perhaps by now they have come to some decision. I dreamt of you two nights ago and did not seem to be in want of practice of how to “carry on”. I went to Tournai this afternoon to a lecture on the war in the east. The men there must have gone through more hardship than some of us what with snow and rain and no fuel. We were lectured to by a Major who has been out there since -15. We also saw pictures; photographs of numerous places he had visited including the Towers of Babel and the Gate of Damascus etc. I am the last in the house now. They have all gone so I will have to hop it and finish this tomorrow.

It is the 20th today but I will only write a few lines as I expect a letter this afternoon.

We didn’t have an English mail up yesterday only French. I have got something which I wanted before my ticket and that is a new pair of boots. They will be alright for working in and should last some time. Perhaps I am speaking rather previous; there are all sorts of rumours going around; to top the one that says we are going to Germany is that we are all being demobilised within a month: of course it does not say what month. Well I will pack up for now hoping you are quite well also hoping to see you soon.

With Fondest Love

From Will xxx

P.S. Have enclosed a rather comical sketch


15th January 1919

Dearest Emmie

Yours to hand of 8th inst. We have no school on this morning so I am spending my time in a much better way by writing to you. I think it was almost impossible for me to have made a mistake in guessing the “surprise” you see it would not have been so pleasant had I made a mistake. You can tell Dad that I have guessed correctly and perhaps he will let you tell me what it is like and all particulars. Is it as good as Mr Day’s? Please let me know your own opinion exactly no matter what it is. I don’t think mine will differ from yours to any great extent so I will know what to look forward to. It has got to be very good to be like Mr Day’s. I don’t think that my Pa will think that you have told me anything if you tell him so. I have had a rather bad cold this last few days but I am glad to say that it is a bit better this morning. We have lost about five drummers so far. There are three more who have signed on for another three or four years will be going soon and then I will be getting ready myself. I think that we have to promise to return if we go on leave so I don’t know which will come first. There are hundreds pass through Tournai every day and I think that once they leave there they are well away. When I read your letter at first I thought of perhaps a “baby sister” but on second thoughts I thought it hardly probable. I know that Mrs D. is very funny but if her dear H was there that accounts for not seeing anybody else. How is Elsie going on? I should think that she is quite a big girl by now; has she still got that squeeky little voice. I don’t know what you will think but I got the booby-prize again last night at the whist drive. A man that got first prize last week stopped all one half (4 times) on one table and of course he had lowest marks. I was playing lady again I suppose that’s why I lost. I’ll have to try gent next time.

Leave is still going but very slowly. I might be home by the end of February I should not think it would be long now. The worst of it is the train service out here is so bad and to get along at 10 miles per hour would be very good. I think I have said before that when on a train journey the boys get on top of the trucks and walk beside the train etc. I don’t think Mrs Sh. is far wrong in her summises for I think that if the Labour Govt had won the day in the election it would have been a good opportunity for Bolshevism to start. Has W. Sharp got his ticket yet I suppose he will have it soon: the long service men have a good chance of getting their check quickly. I am wanting mine badly and yet I have only 10 months out here but n’importe.  Well I must close now as I must write a letter home.

With Love

From Your Will

P.S. How do you like violet ink?


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


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


28th November 1918

Dear Emmie

I have not heard from you for a few days now but hope to have a letter by tomorrow. I suppose they have gone to the Reception Camp. I was buglar on guard last night: the guard room was a stable and rather draughty and an old French woman was kind enough to give us hot coffee at 10pm and 5.30am. but the funny part I was going to tell you was how I had to get up about four times in the night to have a rest. I think it sounds rather funny but it is a common occurance when we are crowded. It has been raining today and is very miserable out.

We are now in a small village named Muchin [?] but I think we are going on to Tournai in a couple of days time. For winter billets it is suggested so I hope and guess they will not be barns as we are in now. We are having classes on various subjects and I am in for a bit of book keeping. (Please excuse the ups and downs of this letter but it is nearly dark.) The various particulars wanted for the classes are Name, No. address, religion, last job, experience and about one hundred and one other things. I was told that the Government are helping apprentices by making an allowance so if I go back as an apprentice it will not [be] so bad.

I think this last advance made by us was wonderful: the way the engineers got bridges over rivers was very smart. A bridge strong enough for any load could be thrown over a river at an average time of about 6 hours.

Towards the end I think Gas was used in nearly every shell by the Germans, but there was not so much metal in them. The nearest I had a shell burst to me was about 15 yards so I was lucky compared with some. I happened to be behind a cooker at the time and a piece of shrapnel broke the shaft and punctured a petrol can at my feet but the ear is over now and I don’t suppose all this interests you only I havn’t much more to write about. It is Thursday today so I suppose you are off to G.F.S. or club well I won’t be there to meet you for some little time but I hope that goes fast.

Well I will now conclude

With Best Love from Will