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.

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