I never hear the chaps sing “I want to be a soldier”

Trenches, Sunday November 28th

I'm coming to all the wars that are on after this, we are having lots of fun. It is about 10pm and snowing for all its worth. The trenches are half full of water and the snow flakes fly through every little crevice and nearly everywhere outside my dugout is damp, and talk about cold! I do wish my hands and feet were not so large, and this is our best month for weather. Oh Cripes! What is our worst going to be like I wonder and I suppose that while we are doing a freeze you are just about baked – what a funny old world this is. But we are not down-hearted -not a bit- and the snow is a bit of a novelty to us but I can't say that in our circumstances we appreciate it very much and immediately after “stand to” this morning I tramped down to the head of Shrapnel Gully to have a look at the view and my word, it was beautiful. All the hills and valleys dazzling white with dwarf holly sticking out all over the place – a real Christmas picture of the Alps or some other story book place. This snow business is alright in books but its a fair - - - - here and that is praising it up ( I was nearly saying cow but I had better not, I'll just think it) but as long as I can stay in my dug out with the blankets around me I'll be fairly well satisfied.

In last weeks letter I think I told you of a narrow escape that Ernie had from a couple of 75s which bored a hole right through a cast iron tank and then burst amongst all our water tins, all happening within a couple of yards of where he was standing. Well exactly a week after this they gave BCOY quartermasters store another flutter. Poor old Ernie had just put in four days hard work in altering the place and had the store looking quite smart when a few more shells began to buzz down the valley so, remembering the last occurrence, he came up to my dugout for shelter though we were getting a few also, and after a time we heard a couple of shells burst down the side of the valley and Ernie asked me “Where are those going? They are not down the valley are they?” And I said “ yes, not too far from your joint I guess” and sure enough, when he went back the place was blown to bits, cases of bully, tins of desiccated vegetables and all manner of things were perched some high up the side, others down below and such a mess you never saw, and Ernie was terribly cut up on account of all the work he had put in the place. He quite forgot about his narrow escape which would have finished him quite if he had been home at the time and now, as soon as he hears the whiz of a shell, off he trots for the trenches and into my dugout for, as I said before, the safest place on the Peninsula is in the trenches.

This is a terrible place for extremes – either 105 in the shade or 105 below zero. Either it never rains for weeks, or else when it does come, makes up for the dry spell in half an hour. It looked a bit thundery on Friday evening and early in the night we were called out just as the thunderstorm broke and talk about a hard half hour- I put in the worst in my life I think in trying to get the poor chap down to the doctor. Just as well that he was dead for the journey would have killed him if he had been badly wounded for rain just came down in sheets and as some of the trenches have a steep gradient, the water just swept down in torrents and we could not even keep out feet. It was absolutely impossible. Then the handles became so slippery that we could not hold the stretcher up and then our strength gave out, and there we were. I have never heard such fearful claps of thunder or seen such vivid lightning in my life before, and to finish up we borrowed a lantern and then slid the stretcher a few inches at a time with the aid of some AMC chaps. I took us half an hour to come two hundred yards. Part of the way we carried him in a blanket then when possible, we used a stretcher. When at last we got back to our dugouts we were drenched to the skin but I managed to get a dry rig out with the aid of some dirty clothes which were awaiting a wash and I'm still in my shorts waiting for my others to dry. Shorts this weather – very suitable in the weather I don't think. Of course, I've got underpants on and if I get wet now, I'll be absolutely jiggered, as Tennyson says.

We got a couple of Turkish patrols the last two nights, surprised them with machine gun fire and cut them up dreadfully. We have managed to bring in their bodies so far, but there are still some more lying out there, but too far from our trenches. I saw two of the poor chaps hey brought in last night – short, wiry little fellows with uniforms somewhat similar to ours. One was lying with his arm shielding his face as if warding off bullets. They were both covered with snow and looked a cruel sight but such is war. I can look on anything now. One soon gets used to those things here.

I reckon it is just about time we had a spell. We have been in for just twelve weeks exactly now, and in France they never do more than a month at a stretch. I don't know how the Australians will stand this sort of weather after two summers in succession. I used to think how lucky we were in not being sent to France but if the winter there is any colder than we have been getting it here, “I'll go he.”

We have no mail for a fortnight and posted up is a notice saying that the 577 bags of mail for the Australian troops went down with the “Orange Prince” so there is a mail gone – darned hard luck, and coming so soon on the news that our mail from here was sunk too. “Aren't we having fun?”

By the way, I never hear the chaps sing “I want to be a soldier” or such like. Mostly they sing ballads such as “Mother, dear Mother, I want to come home. My hands and my feet are so numb” and so on to the tune of “Father, come home to me now.”

There's hardly a shot fired and even (censored) as it were and sends down all the more but the snow seems to quieten him.

Its just grand to have the photo here. I never knew it was such a good one before. Why, to look at Lester you would think he was such a nice, good little boy, wouldn't you and we know him, don't we, too well.

I'm going out now to take a couple of snaps of our first snow.

So good bye, hoping you are all well.

I remain, your loving son.

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