Monthly Archives

September 1916

Poor Hill 60

September 17, 1916

France, 17/9/16

Dear Amy,

I got your letter of 27th July yesterday. I am glad you liked the ANZAC book. We were told when it was published that it was only available to soldiers. It’s interesting to those who have been to the place. All the pictures are familiar to us. In many places the bit of wit would be lost on any but those who saw the customs and would make it much dryer otherwise. Poor Hill 60. Nothing more of any use can be done in respect to it but pray for those who are still there. That’s where I first saw blood shed and it flowed to the tune of hundreds of lives per minute.  But it is past.

A Battalion at rest is true to life. The scenery over there is good, but it seems too flat in the pictures. Poor W.Salmon had bad luck. It shows how easy it is for a man to be killed. G.Low got wounded recently in the legs, but he has his life which is a lot to get out with. I met R. Hore recently. He is doing well and looking well. We have seen some more of France. It is an interesting country but it has been put to pretty bad use. We are very lucky to be able to settle disputes away from our own home. The country that has been fought in gets very badly smashed up. Villages become brick dust. Hardly a brick is left intact.

It is starting to get cold. We expect it will get very cold in Winter. The Spring is very fine but rather too wet to be comfortable. At this business anyhow, wet makes it pretty miserable. We have recently been given a blanket. Before we only had our great coat, oil sheet or ground sheet for a bed which means we had to sleep in our full dress and we can’t keep anywhere clean and parasites, lice – wretched beasts are with everyone. They are many times worse than fleas and thrive on filth. Imagine having to go over a week without being able to take any clothes off. When we get back from the line we can get a bath of some kind . Sometimes we get real food and a bath of some kind. Often we stand in the air and use a sponge with water from a water bottle. Better than none, but a bath’s a real luxury. Of course we get a lot more time out of the line than we spend in – about three times- standing time in villages where we can buy tinned fruits, biscuits etc. and there are YMCA huts all over the place. It is strange that in this country that is almost covered in fruit we can’t buy it fresh except at heavy prices 5d for a pear, 3d for and orange. The tinned stuff is good, especially with a tin of condensed milk- a favourite meal after a shift of fairly rough food. We don’t like the Belgians. The general opinion is a pretty poor one.

Love to all, STID

Their birds cannot hold a candle to ours

September 1, 1916

France, Sept. 1, 1916

Dear Amy,

I got a letter from you a couple of days ago. It’s a long time since I came away and seems further back than it is and your letters are a glimpse of home for me and very welcome.

We have seen a little more of France. It’s very pretty, heavily peopled and fertile. In some districts the villages are as close as farms at home. All the little towns have big churches. R.C. – very showy inside. In some places they put hyphens in the names of two towns because they are so close.

The villages are pretty dirty usually and the people are not particular about personal cleanliness in body or mind, but the country is very pretty. All trees appear to have been planted and are pruned for wood. It’s hilly country mostly where we have been and it’s cut into small farms. It has a checkerboard look about it. There are no fences except for yards about houses. They make a lot of hedges and ditches. Wheat seems to be the principle grain but there is plenty of barley, oats, spuds peas, beans, hops – a lot of hops because they have beer in every house. They use it as we do tea. Wild poppies, wall flowers, buttercups, daisies, cornflowers- most of them the same as we have at home. That old saying that “booksters” ?? have about everything different on the other side of the world is not true.

Clover, barley, grass, corkscrew, as they are at home.

Their birds cannot hold a candle to ours. The lark is the only singer I’ve heard here. As for the womenfolk, they are not as nice as ours, either. Under ordinary circumstances it would be fairly hard to distinguish between Belgium and French and here, of course, we are close to the border. The people probably change gradually.

They breed rabbits to eat but there are a few running wild and some hares, but they are rare. The mole is here and he is hard to dig out of his burrow but can dig along as fast as any man can dig but he gets washed out sometimes. He is a very powerful little chap – something of a cross between a rat and a porcupine.

There are miles and miles of chalk country that has tunnels washed into it- something like the Jenolan Caves. Still the chalk is pure and soft and great for cleaning metals.

On one front where we were fighting there are some chalk pits made by explosions. The biggest is 70’ deep by 260’ across. There are hundreds about 40’ by 70’ and millions ranging from a foot or so up. It’s astonishing how we smash everything else up while we are smashing each other. When a town has been a battlefield it ceases to be. Hardly two bricks are left together. Wagons, binders, plows etc get pulverised. Mother earth gets torn and forests almost go up in steam still the little animal, man foes ahead. He is certainly terrible and wonderfully made and would tackle an earthquake almost if it came in his way once he gets on the warpath.

When it comes to this class of work the Hun is only a cad at rock bottom- usually quits to save his cadlike hide and our men are manly enough to take prisoners but I’ll bet my hide the enemy gets no prisoners who are not injured. We see many Germans who have thrown in the sponge who say Fritz is no good. English good. He is a contemptible cuss. He isn’t half as fond of his saw-edged bayonet as his cruel acts would make people believe and would as soon run as use it. I think it has been made for sawing wood. We see lots of his gear and it’s not so good as ours- cheap and nasty is branded all over it. I saw a picture in LIFE of a Fokker behind one of our machines. It’s rot. They usually fight then run. Our planes are always up aloft and they boss with a big margin. It’s really wonderful the contempt they have for the Bosh plane. I saw one Hun one day pause as if not sure about running away and our fellow rushing at him at about 100 miles an hour. The Hun turned three somersaults when a collision seemed about. He fell a long way. Finally righted and got away, but he was well marked.

Claptrap finished.

Love to all, Stid