Archive for October, 2016

2nd July, France

Posted: October 26, 2016 by saraherhodes in 1916

Well I have been in one place over a week now – quite a record for some considerable period. We have been having glorious weather the last few days, but before that it was very dreary – muck and slush everywhere. I have a pair of gum boots and they are just the thing for the mud and wet. We are becoming quite used to the rats and mice now, in fact we treat them more as a joke than otherwise. Sometimes the men turn out with little muddy marks all over their faces where these little pets have been roaming at night. I have a couple of quaint little mice keeping me company. There were three, till one foolishly let his tail dangle out of his dugout. He swung to an early doom! Just at present there are a couple building a nest. They come in and tear up all my papers, and then walk off with it in their mouths. They used my felt hat as a sort of halfway house till I moved it.

Tuesday I had a busty day here. I was visited by two Padres, two majors, and two Captains. They all chose awkward times to come too. One, just as I had lathered my face for a shave. It is very hard trying to appear dignified with one’s face covered with soap. And the others in batches, or when I was at dinner. There has been plenty of “stouch” knocking about. Bombing attacks, raids, and bombardments.

Have you received your Anzac magazine yet? It is absolutely true to life. I was speaking with Capt. Sprent the other day, he is the prize poet in it. He is our brigade gas expert. Our greatest trouble is to get exercise. We can only move at night, and then there are only about five hours of darkness, during which we want to sleep. We are very much like a stagnant pool in a big stream. Everywhere around us is intense hate breathed forth, but we still manage to keep out, we are like a miniature Sargasso Sea. I am beginning to feel the rub to keep myself employed now. Have at last had to descend to the depths of that awful and moral wrecking game of chance, much indulged in by old maids, called “patience”. The strain is beginning to tell. I take a feverish delight in shuffling the cards. Capt. Jeffries has been promoted to major. I suppose we will be losing him now. He will probably take a Field Ambulance. Jack Clarke is billeted about eighteen miles from here, in the same billets we first occupied.

Our best sport is an Aeroplane duel. Our chaps come out in mass formation, very seldom less than ten planes. A couple of nights ago I saw 16, some say there were 20. The Bosches pepper them with hail of shrapnel, but they don’t seem to mind. I saw one chase a Fokker last night. He dived from about 6,000 ft. I should say (although I have no idea of judging height at all) straight down like a big eagle.

The act of censoring letters makes us personally responsible that nothing of value goes through of course purely military value – not monetary. They know better than to trust us. I had thought of writing to —- but on second thoughts didn’t consider them worth the trouble. They would probably break some poor instructor’s heart. You manage to pick some weird names for the feline tribe. I am going to get a kitten for this post and train it to catch mice.

They were more than Turks and Arabs that we were watching for along the canal. There were several regiments of German and Austrians not far away. All along here the Australians are mixing things for their lives. One of our batteries broke the world’s record on getting off 156 rounds in a minute. This was with four guns of course, but it is “some going eh!” Just here we have the Huns walloped in the air, in machine guns, and in artillery. I don’t know what it is like elsewhere. I had a look through a military cemetery this morning. There were about two acres of crosses all regiments. Some dated from April 15, but not many, nearly all were recent. One grave has 37 11th Battalion men in it – due to the bombardment when they made that name for themselves.

Received a letter from Mrs Logan, a couple of days ago. She invited me down to their place if I could get leave. She says – “even if you do succeed in getting leave, Helowan is scarcely the place a desert banished young man would choose, but you know a warm welcome would await you and two Bohemians who would not be surprised if you only appeared at bedtimes, or wore pyjamas all day in the heat, when obliged to stay in the house”.

Arthur Hill worded that letter to the rifle men very well. A little high explosive might do some good. They want to see a few men shovelled into sandbags and dumped in a hole, as I did, this morning. They want to see these houses here, just a heap of bricks, Churches knocked to pieces, and desolation everywhere – then – perhaps- ? they would hear the call. I am enclosing two cheques. They are rather damaged but the tearing is quite legitimate, being done by a bullet. There was a terrific bombardment this morning. I was up most of the night over it.

Well I have run dry,
lots of love to you all,
Lance.

25th June

Posted: October 26, 2016 by saraherhodes in 1916

I was very pleased to receive your letter of the 1/5/16, a couple of days ago. It was part of the mail I received at Marseilles. I heard of Chapman’s death on the way up. There are very few of us left of the old original crowd. There were about 30 of us who were friends before we enlisted. It has come down to single figures now I think. I believe Jack Clarke’s version of the various nights out was rather humorous. He is somewhere about here. He used to say that when we “hopped out” he would be behind pushing the heavy stuff over. Will Kelly was not at the school, I didn’t see him – got a letter only.

Last Thursday I went out to the trenches. We moved out into various posts behind the lines last night. I have a strong post, it is the most advanced of the battalion. Thursday I had a look over the place, afterwards I went up into the trenches. They don’t compare very favourably with Anzac at all. They are only breastworks. It is impossible to dig down on account of water, also if you make an elaborate trench, it is blown in. It is rather peculiar that our brigade relieved their old mother brigade. I saw all the boys of the old battalion – Blackburn, Kinnish, Gordon Campbell, Ben Franklin, and dozens of others. They are all looking fine.

Coming back I got caught in the support lines by a bombardment. Had to spend the best part of an hour under a firing step in the mud. Got hit by a piece of falling shell, which luckily did no damage, didn’t even break the skin. The whole damage here is Artillery work. The daily “strafe” is about equal to what we used to call a heavy bombardment. When they get going properly there is something doing I can tell you. I think Dante would revise his “Inferno” if he heard it. However, we manage to live – how do we do it I don’t know.

Last night I brought my platoon out and took over their place. I have seen some rubbish heaps, but never a place like this. The whole place is vermin infected, rotten and insanitary. I don’t think it would stop a well thrown stone, let alone a 10 inch howitzer. I am quite used to rats and mice dancing a devil’s hornpipe on my chest now. One thing we do get a spell behind the line at times, also the living isn’t so crude, it is possible to buy extras. We see some great aerial duals here at times. In fact aeroplanes are as common as soldiers almost.  Most of these men here are absolutely raw, and they are getting scare after scare from German guns, and our own guns – it is quite amusing in a way. Gas seems to be one of the worst things here. We have all got masks etc., but it is always a foe to be reckoned with. If you get a warning it is all right, but woe-betide the people who don’t take notice of the warning. Another thing we have is the steel helmet. They are heavy to wear, but a great boon. In many cases only light casualties result whereas it would have been a case for the pioneers. Rifle fire is almost a thing of the past. It is all bombs, guns and other pleasing little instruments of torture. All the trenches have duck boards in them.  These are sort of wooden platforms raised off the bottom of the trench to get rid of the mud and wet. I haven’t seen Jonah for several days, but he was going strong when I saw him.

Well my news has blown out.
Best of love to you all,
Lance.

22nd June

Posted: October 26, 2016 by saraherhodes in 1916

We have had yet another move. In fact we will be on the move all the time now, every few days.

Last Monday I went to a grenade school for the day. Had a motor ride of several miles, and saw all sorts of bombs and grenades – threw a few myself. When I got back at night I found that the whole Division had moved on. I had to interview Brigade and Divisional head quarters and career all over the country. The result was a motor lorry to take myself and a few men up to the Battalion. After driving for a couple of hours we managed to pick up the others. They were in a town about five miles off the firing line. It is a pretty little town. I am billeted in a house in a fine little room to myself. It is on the ground floor with a window looking out into the street. I have quite an abundance of furniture and am very comfortable. We hold our company mess in another house, presided over by a fussy little woman who does all our cooking. She runs round the table chatting away in French and laughing and giggling to herself. She is quite a source of amusement to us all.

It seems a peculiar thing to walk into a house and take possession. However, it is quite comfortable and very nice after crowded camp life.

Last night I had my first taste of being under fire in France. I took a party of about 20 men up to within a kilometre (5/8 mile) of the firing line. We had to do some digging. After we had been going some time they started an artillery duel. Most of our men I had were quite raw, and it shook their nerves somewhat. Some of them were very funny. However, nothing went very close to us except stray bullets, and we came out of it alright. We were working till about 2 am., and I got to bed at 4.

Before long we expect to move right up to the line or very close to it. Some of the shells that come over are quite an awkward size. I have a few of the 10th. They are right ahead of us. Yesterday I saw a couple of Officers, and Davidson and Colbey. They are all looking well.

Gas is a very frequent thing here. We all have masks. Yesterday we were tested in it by walking through trenches with gas spraying over us. It is nasty stuff. They use several sorts of gas. One kind makes the eyes run with tears, and smart like fun.

Some of the Belgians are causing a lot of trouble with their espionage. The inhabitants here live almost in the firing line. They go about their work as if nothing unusual was occurring. Some of them get knocked out, but they don’t seem to mind. I saw the place where O’Leary won his V.C. last night. It is about three miles from here. It seems funny to think that all this country was in the hands of the Germans at one time. From now on you must expect scrappy letters, as I expect we will be pretty busy. Jonah is O.K.

With goodbye to you all,
lots of  love,
Yours truly,
Lance.