Cold feet and half rations

Trenches, Saturday December 4th, 1915

We are just finishing our thirteenth week in the trenches are just about sick to death of them. Although things are very quiet, now and again a shrapnel shell bursts overhead and makes you jump with the noise, but pellets can't reach us - we are too far down- but a poor, unfortunate jam tin got blown down off the parapet just now by a shell simply riddled with holes so the healthiest place is down below.

Down Archie Baba way the battleships are putting in some solid work judging from the continued booming of the guns. But it will be a long day before we even force this place. It has been messed up from start to finish and now the Turks are in a stronger position than ever.

My word, it has been some cold lately. It snowed last Sunday and didn't thaw until yesterday (Friday). Ice was every where and wet boots and cold feet were very fashionable. I led the fashion easily and now we are on half rations. The cold would not be so bad if were would get plenty to eat and drink, but no stew, curry, bread or fresh meat – nothing but biscuits and bully, one half ration of jam, half of cheese, half of tea, and no water to drink, let alone to wash with. On Thursday I took a bag and went down the valley and broke up the ice from off some of the pools, melted it down, strained it, boiled it, strained it again, and had a drink. Then I spared a two oz tobacco tin full cleaned my teeth, shaved and washed the first for a full fortnight and I feel a lot better. How long this half ration business is going to last I'm sure I don't know, but it has been on the go for a fortnight already, but who's growling, for I have just been reading an article in “The Review” of “Reviews on how a great army is fed” and stating that the British Army is the best fed of the lot. Pity help the others!

And now, another bit of a growl – we have had no mail for a month. Our last mail to here got torpedoed so I will loose a fortnight's news from you all, dead chronic it is, if I may be permitted to praise it up.

But never mind, Christmas is coming with peace and good will towards men in the shape of bullets, bombs 8 inch shells and all sorts of tokens of love. Oh yes, we are having lots of fun.

We see by the papers that the people over there are sending us billies. Well, we reckon going by the gift stuff we have already received that if we get one billie to a platoon we will be doing very well indeed, but I'm afraid that you will think I'm getting a confirmed growler but really I'm quite pleased for today is not very cold and my feet are as warm as toast.

Beachy is very busy today as usual. He just about keeps them one the beach at Anzac hopping around some. He must be well planted for we have tried long enough to get him but he still reigns supreme, rains shrapnel all along the beach.

We got a bit of a doing last Monday by big shells. We think they come from Chanak or some of those forts along the way. They lobbed a few on us. No one was hurt, thank goodness, then for about two hours belted into Lone Pine, fifty yards from our trench, and there they did awful damage, the 23rd and 24th suffering a good deal. We could hear the shells coming ten seconds before the explosion. We could not hear the guns fired though for they are too far away but we have some deep funk holes about thirty feet deep and there we can stop in perfect safety for even a Jack Johnson could not reach us at that depth.

I am digging a new dugout now my old one is too big and roomy this cold weather, and as we are short again, Ernie has to go on a post at night, so I find it pretty cool at times, I'm going well down this time, far out of reach of 75s or other unwelcome visitors in fact an 8-2 is going to have a hard job to find me.

I've just been watching the birds, there are thousands migrating south and they don't quite know what to make of the shells humming through the air, or the whiz of the shrapnel, and they seem quite stupefied at times. Now and again a large flock of wild geese fly over and Turks and Australians bang away at them but I've not seen one brought down yet.

I've just heard a rumour that the bombardment that smashed up Lone Pine was from the old cruiser Goeben, it is quite feasible for they were lovely shells although terrible and 8-2 shell stands about three feet high two foot six at least and of course, eight inches and a bit in diameter.

Abdul has been chucking us shells all day long and we have not had a casualty so I'm afraid he is very disappointed to know what a waste of shells he is pouring out. We reckon that an ordinary eighteen lb shrapnel costs about 25 shillings so he has spent at least 100 lb on the 22nd today without doing any more harm than a couple of frights.

Oh well Mother, what's for tea? Biscuit and jam, turn it up, we had that last night, and have had it nearly every night since we came here. Can't you give us a bit of a change, anyhow they have not done me any harm as I am just it as far as health goes but will be might glad, when the time comes, to get away from here and back home.

Ernie is well, and Ralph is looking fine, his face has filled out and he looks even better than before he left Australia. I'll close now, hoping all are well, and that you are enjoying the best of health.

With love from your son,


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